Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Explaining Gentrification: Real Estate Bubble Trouble in Stockholm

The microeconomics of housing supply pale in comparison to the macroeconomics of housing demand at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Globalization and gentrification.

Subject Article: "A Housing Surge in Sweden: Recent changes Sweden's tax system has attracted wealthy homeowners to the capital. But expect steep prices in Stockholm."

Other Links: 1. "Explaining Gentrification: Geography of Knowledge Hubs."
2. "Sweden's House Prices Have Tripled In Ten Years, But Is It Really A Bubble Waiting To Be Burst? Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman Thinks So."
3. "Scandinavia Is Looking Scary."
4. "Swedish Housing Surges to Unsafe Value as Debt Soars."
5. "East European oligarchs rush to snap up London property."
6. "The Chinese take Manhattan: replace Russians as top apartment buyers."
7. "Boston Mayor Looks to Skyscraper Housing to Forge Tech Capital."

Postscript: Don't shoot the messenger, "The High Cost of Geographically Illiterate Economists":

Prices on the San Francisco Peninsula won’t go down just because supply goes up. This one must just torture economists who continue to stare at their 2-D graph showing how demand always goes down when supply goes up. There are loads of factors that drive real estate prices. Sure supply is one factor. Here are a few others: proximity to employment opportunities, good schools, high-quality entertainment and other cultural amenities. Turns out the San Francisco Peninsula might be one of the best places to live in the entire world if your primary goal is to find a high-paying job near great Thai food restaurants and outdoor live music venues. People also like to live in places with great weather and they like a view of the ocean or the mountains or a lake or a park with trees and flowers. You know, the commodity you refer to as “open space”. Yes, people definitely like open space. Kids like to run around and play. Adults like to walk dogs. In fact, a regular dose of nature is good for our physical and mental health. The ability to conveniently access this type of open space is good for quality of life and when you provide a high quality of life this funny thing happens: people want to live in the vicinity and, voilĂ , housing demand and real estate prices go up.

Emphasis added. Geographers think about how people and places are connected across space. Economists analyze markets in isolation. What seems irrational to an economist, is perfectly rational to a geographer. When it comes to the demand side of the gentrification equation, economists (and urban planners) suck at geography.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Explaining Gentrification: Geography of Knowledge Hubs

University, not restrictive zoning, as agent of gentrification at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic gentrification.

Subject Article: "Introduction, Knowledge Hubs: Infrastructure and the Knowledge Economy in City-Regions."

Other Links: 1. "Hub Cities in the Knowledge Economy: Seaports, Airports, Brainports."
2. "Growth Without Growth: An Alternative Economic Development Goal For Metropolitan Areas."
3. "Penntrification: Mom-and-pops keep feeling the squeeze in West Philly."
4. "Explaining Gentrification."
5. "Explaining Gentrification: Global Jobs Versus Local Jobs."
6. "Black Bottom Blues: Revisiting the neighborhood that Penn and Drexel gobbled up."

Postscript: "The Chinese take Manhattan: replace Russians as top apartment buyers":

The Chinese are also venturing out to Long Island, where they are buying Gatsby-esque mansions set atop rolling greens.

Broker Shawn Elliott ferries around groups of Chinese buyers in Rolls Royce and Mercedes-Benz luxury sprinters every week, often catering to entire families at a time.

"They're looking for trophy properties," said Elliott. "They're looking for their children to be comfortable, and to be near Columbia or New York University."

The quality of the real estate buyers is more important than the quantity of real estate buyers. The mantra "increase supply" in order to abate gentrification is reductionist, in the worst way.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Explaining Gentrification: Global Jobs Versus Local Jobs

Explaining ironic gentrification in Pittsburgh at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Global talent migration.

Subject Article: "Pittsburgh renting rates rising quickly."

Other Links: 1. "The cost of blight: vacant and abandoned properties."
2. "Urban Decline in Rust-Belt Cities."
3. "Explaining Gentrification."
4. "Sky's the limit for Atlanta rents: Ponce City Market leases are just a sampling."
5. "University Circle aims to help small businesses rise with the neighborhood: gentrification 101."

Postscript: Lack of housing supply is not the only cause of gentrification. In this post, I show how global labor markets push up rents in shrinking cities where the housing supply is ample to meet demand. Yet gentrification still exists.In a forthcoming post, I explore the real estate bubble in Stockholm, Sweden as another possible cause of gentrification.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Explaining Gentrification

Constraints on talent supply, not affordable housing, better explains gentrification at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: War for talent.

Subject Article: "Housing markets: The spectre haunting San Francisco."

Other Links: 1. "Rudy Giuliani: Press Release - Mayor Giuliani Cleaned Up New York City."
2. "Aberdeen, the city outpacing even London’s property boom."
3. "Oil and gas expansion to create 20,000 Scottish jobs."
4. "Bright Flight From Silicon Valley."

Postscript: I don't buy the argument that housing supply is the primary driver of gentrification. "Still More Bounce in California":

Silicon Valley tops the list of highest paid metropolitan areas when it comes to tech talent, with an average annual salary of $108,603 and an average annual bonus of $12,458. The seven percent year-over-year increase in salary was partially driven by those tech professionals earning more than $250,000 being included in this year’s results. Excluding those highly paid professionals, Silicon Valley salaries still increased at a greater rate than the national average or five percent year-over-year.

Looking at median rent as a share of median income, the supposedly exceptionally tight San Francisco market isn't the least affordable city. It ranks 7th nationally. To date, all I've read is anecdotal data supporting the claim that artificial housing supply restriction is the culprit for gentrification. Meanwhile, gentrification is occurring just about everywhere (even in dying Rust Belt cities) in a variety of policy geographies.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The City Is Dying

The ironic geography of dying cities at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Demographic decline.

Subject Article: "Population of rural America continues to fall."

Other Links: 1. "Peak Urbanization."
2. "The Era of Dying Places: Everyone Is Starved for Talent, but Migration Is a Thing of the Past."
3. "Urbanization As Opportunity."
4. "Los Angeles Is Beginning to Look a Lot Like Pittsburgh."
5. "Which Poor Neighborhoods Experienced Income Growth in Recent Decades?"
6. "The Case for More Babies."

Postscript: For example, Los Angeles is dying:

But the most worrisome blow by far is a scathing verdict on Los Angeles’s civic health that was delivered in a one-two punch — the second on Wednesday — by a committee of lawyers, developers, labor leaders and former elected officials who make up something of the Old Guard here. The Los Angeles 2020 Commission presented a catalog of failings that it said were a unique burden to the city: widespread poverty and job stagnation, huge municipal pension obligations, a struggling port and tourism industry and paralyzing traffic that would not be eased even with a continuing multibillion-dollar mass transit initiative.

Their conclusions amounted to an indictment of a city and its culture, a place that the commission said was brimming with talent and resources but was nonetheless falling behind other major cities across the globe.

“Los Angeles is barely treading water, while the rest of the world is moving forward,” the commission said. “We risk falling further behind in adapting to the realities of the 21st century and becoming a city in decline.”

It was a good run.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Peak Urbanization

The city is dying at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Demographic decline.

Subject Article: "Austin or Bust: America's Biggest Cities Lose People to the Urban B-List."

Other Links: 1. "Bright Flight From Silicon Valley."
2. "The End Of Geography."
3. "End Of Urban Hierarchy."
4. "Rust Belt Geographic Arbitrage: Buffalo."
5. "After years of brain drain, young people are moving back to Buffalo."
6. "Mesofact Migration."
7. "Website of Samuel Arbesman."
8. "The World Is Spiky: Globalization has changed the economic playing field, but hasn't leveled it."
9. "Why the Rent Is Too Damn High."
10. "People Develop, Not Places."

Postscript: To presage the next post, a teaser:

In developed countries, the urbanization project is basically complete. The remaining urban growth will play out almost entirely in developing countries. In 2010, the urban population in the regions that the United Nations classifies as less developed stood at 2.6 billion. In 100 years, it is likely to be three times larger. Moreover, as Angel (2012) shows, the historical pattern of urban growth suggests that over this time horizon, urban population density in developing cities could easily fall by half.

Emphasis added. If not for immigration, that would be obvious by now in the United States.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Bright Flight From Silicon Valley

Talent outmigration ravaging Silicon Valley at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic talent migration.

Subject Article: "Cities See a 'Bright Flight': Highly Educated Americans Increasingly Move to More Affordable Metro Areas in South, West."

Other Links: 1. "Is Silicon Valley Similar to Detroit?"
2. "Tech-savvy drawn to warm climate and cool image of Barcelona."
3. "Silicon Rust."
4. "In Silicon Valley, a New Investment: Eviction."
5. "Los Angeles Is Beginning to Look a Lot Like Pittsburgh."
6. "Bye-Bye, Baby."

Postscript: Blog fodder for my next post, moving down the urban hierarchy:

As a professional thirtysomething who has lived in both New York and Los Angeles, I sometimes feel as if everyone I know is hatching plans to flee to somewhere less expensive, less massive, less hectic, and—again for good measure—less expensive. I know people who have moved in recent years from Los Angeles to Charlotte, from Boston to Durham, from New York to Seattle, from the Bay Area to Denver. Thanks to new U.S. Census data, I now know I am not going crazy. The flight to second-tier cities is thriving.

While the big name prognosticators cling foolishly to the past and claim the world is getting spikier, the undercurrents of flat world have finally gone mainstream. Goodbye, Silicon Valley.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Silicon Rust

The un-tethering of innovation from geography at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Convergence of Innovation Economy.

Subject Article: "Vivek Wadhwa: Location No Longer Determines Success."

Other Links: 1. "Silicon Shore: How Newcastle Quietly Became A Tech Hub."
2. "The New Geography of Jobs."
3. "Talent Is the New Oil: OPEC of Tech."
4. "Cleveland's 'trouble-making' demographer gets a center to plot the region's growth."
5. "Cost-of-living chasm buoying tech firms."
6. "Midnight in the Rust Belt."
7. "Creating Reagan's image / S.F. ad man Riney helped secure him a second term."

Postscript: To put a bird on Silicon Valley decline, Financial Times story about the H-1B visa rush:

Last year, that allotment went in the first few days after applications opened. This year, immigration attorneys and company executives say, the race will be as tough, if not tougher, as rising tech valuations have fuelled demand for coders.

That is pushing some companies to think more strategically than before about immigration, said John Bautista, a partner with Orrick, a law firm in Silicon Valley.

In the past few months, he says, some companies with US-only operations have started asking whether they could open a new office abroad in order to recruit people and then bring them into the US on a type of visa allocated to existing employees for internal transfers.

“Before [corporate boards said], ‘We’ve got someone we want to hire, what’s the best way to bring him over?’”, said Mr Bautista. “Now it’s, ‘We have a hiring problem, let’s use the immigration laws to come up with an overall strategy to bring teams of people onboard.’”

Silicon Valley has a hiring problem. It no longer corners the market on tech talent.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Happy H-1B Visa Day

Facebook is dying at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: War for talent.

Subject Article: "More than 100 Chicago tech execs sign letter urging immigration reform: State's GOP delegation told of need for foreign engineers, scientists."

Other Links: 1."Offshore firms took 50% of H-1B visas in 2013: Government data shows who is really using the visas."
2."The STEM Talent Shortage Debate."
3."Talent Is the New Oil: OPEC of Tech."
4."The Price of Panic."
5."Tech Talent Recruiting Geography."

Postscript: I could go back and forth forever about the relationship between the skills gap and immigration policy. I'm in favor of dramatically increasing the supply of foreign born labor in the United States. Migration is economic development. I'm not writing about the war for talent from a policy perspective.  I'm trying to figure out if the Innovation Economy has peaked and begun converging (i.e. geographically diffusing). The primary point of contention concerns labor costs. When an economy is diverging (i.e. geographically concentrating in a few places), employers can afford dramatic increases in wages. When wages become an overriding concern, businesses should seek out geographic arbitrage opportunities. To date, tech companies have done everything but change address. Today, April Fool's Day, is a day of reckoning.