Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Turning Real Estate Market Fundamentals on Their Head

Quality of demand for housing, not supply restrictions, driving geography of gentrification at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Gentrification mesofacts.

Subject Article: "No, really, it's about supply."

Other Links: 1. "Superstar Cities."
2. "Giving Up on Urban Neighborhoods."

Postscript: A sincere thank you to Daniel Kay Hertz for challenging my take on "Superstar Cities." What I love best about blogging is the exchange with other bloggers. Hertz's criticism forced me to revisit the paper on the superstar city phenomenon and I gained a better appreciation of how that analysis adds to the discourse about income inequality, which I overlooked the first time around. More about that in my next blog post.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Giving Up on Urban Neighborhoods

Letting urban neighborhoods die at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Rust Belt urban revitalization.

Subject Article: "Rehab aid focused in gentrifying areas, distressed areas languish."

Other Links: 1. "Neighborhoods by the Numbers: Data-Driven Tools for Neighborhood Revitalization."
2. "Money to L.A.'s 'Promise Zone' could displace poor, experts say."

Postscript: The policymakers are upfront about the decision to give up on the parts of the city overwhelmed with vacant buildings. Given the limited resources, what else can communities do? If you don't like it, take your grievance to the federal government. Until funding priorities change, urban neighborhood triage is the status quo.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Geography of Income Equality and Gentrification

Thanks to the globalization of real estate markets, cities are unable to manage gentrification at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Globalization and gentrification.

Subject Article: "Superstar Cities."

Postscript: Fun tool from Planet Money that allows for an apple-to-apples comparison between cities, taking "annual income for typical, full-time workers in different metro areas" and "adjusts that figure for the cost of living in each metro area". Plug in the Cleveland MSA and discover that the cost of living burden in Northeast Ohio feels like San Francisco. Also of note, Rochester, MN has the highest median wage after adjusting for cost of living. That's what tradable health care will generate.

Migration and Development in an Age of Growing Economic Inequality

For community and economic development, migration matters more than place at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: People develop, not places.

Subject Article: "Migration and Development Research Is Moving Far beyond Remittances."

Other Links: 1. "Reinventing Older Communities: Bridging Growth & Opportunity."
2. "The Determinants and Welfare Implications of US Workers' Diverging Location Choices by Skill: 1980-2000."
3. "The great escape: Emigration may not relieve pressure on wages in weak economies."

Postscript: An example of how migration is poorly understood in the realm of economic development:

The first (pervasive) misconception is that Africa  is urbanising exceptionally fast due to intensive rural-urban migration. This is simply not true. Africa’s rate of urbanisation (i.e. change in the percentage of Africans living in urban as opposed to rural areas) is far lower than that of East Asia, for example, and not unusually rapid by historical standards. However, what is true is that Africa’s urban population has been growing at an historically unprecedented rate for decades. It is important from a policy perspective to appreciate this distinction between rates of urbanisation and rates of urban population growth. Most policy makers don’t. ...

... From a practical perspective, the pressing challenges of providing adequate housing, infrastructure, employment opportunities and security in African cities relate to rapid urban population growth, not urbanisation. And yet governments and aid agencies have mistakenly sought to deal with these challenges by targeting rural-urban migration based on a misunderstanding of the dynamics shaping Africa’s urban transition. For those interested in easing demographic pressure in urban areas, the only humane policy option is to try to reduce population growth by promoting fertility decline through voluntary family planning initiatives. And for those interested in promoting economic development in the region, investment in urban areas should be top of the policy agenda.

Likewise, in US urban neighborhood policy, population decline is usually understood as a function of migration. Places growing in population are winning the vote with your feet election. Places with declining population suffer from brain drain. This misperception is rampant in the press and among policymakers, hindering our ability to address income inequality issues.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Myths of Population Decline and Fiscal Stress in American Cities

Growing cities have fiscal stress, too at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Mesofacts and municipal finance.

Subject Article: "Fiscal Stress in the Postindustrial City."

Other Links: 1. "Reinventing Older Communities: Bridging Growth & Opportunity."
2. "Gentrification Is in the Eye of the Beholder."
3. "Could the U.S. Become a Third-World Country?"

Postscript: Public safety and pension costs were cited as the two main components of fiscal stress. The same person who made this observation also used Vallejo's (California) bankruptcy as an example of how to play Moneyball with rising fiscal costs. Vallejo experienced decades of robust population growth leading up to the fiscal stress. The people in power couldn't blame a shrinking city. I think demographic decline has become a red herring for fiscal stress in Rust Belt cities. Brain drain makes a nice scapegoat in places where nonprofits that can't be taxed gobble up prime urban real estate.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Does Geographic Context Matter When Reinventing America’s Older Communities?

For revitalizing urban neighborhoods, geography is dead at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Geographic scale and policy efficacy.

Subject Article: "Reinventing Older Communities: Bridging Growth & Opportunity."

Other Links: 1. "Pittsburgh’s “Brain Gain:” A Model for San Antonio?"
2. "Keeping the Focus on People, Not Places, With Jim Russell."

Postscript: I think we can come up with a comprehensive list of neighborhood typologies that would inform good policy. The scale of intervention is the neighborhood, not the city or metro. These neighborhoods are dealing with global forces, not regional ones. In that regard, geographic context is not useful.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Gentrification Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Shrinking cities with appreciating rents at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic demographics and gentrification.

Subject Article: "Developers Turn Former Office Buildings Into High-End Apartments: In Cleveland and Other U.S. Cities, Rents for Residential Units Rise Amid Sluggish Office Demand."

Other Links: 1. "Who likes Pittsburgh? The answer shows up in low office vacancy rates."
2. "Real estate notes: Views on Pittsburgh apartment market."

Postscript: I am at the "Reinventing Older Communities: Bridging Growth & Opportunity" conference in Philadelphia today. This morning, I toured an urban neighborhood attempting to revitalize. Missing from the discussion is an understanding of how migration impacts community and economic development. I figure that's why gentrification pressure in dying Cleveland is so surprising. At best, the demographic analysis is superficial. Sometimes the analysis is just wrong. I'm angling to make migration a part of the reinventing older communities conversation.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Why Is Brooklyn Dying?

Explaining Brooklyn's "demographic decline" at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: People develop, not places.

Subject Article: "Brooklyn’s Chinese Pioneers: Hardworking Fujianese immigrants use the borough as a launching pad to the middle class."

Other Links: 1. "Ironic Demographics: Brooklyn Is Dying."
2. "Income per Natural: Measuring Development as if People Mattered More Than Places."
3. "Spike Lee’s Amazing Rant Against Gentrification: ‘We Been Here!’"

Postscript: "The number of kids in the US would be shrinking if it weren't for immigrants":

A new report says that the number of children in the US increased during the recession — entirely because of the increase in children of immigrants. It's another reminder that America's immigrants are saving the country from the population decline facing a lot of the rest of the developed world.

State or municipal policy doesn't drive immigration. I'm tired of reading bogus claims about how a growing population is an indicator of economic health. Libertarian think tanks are the worst offenders, trying link population decline with legal regimes that are business unfriendly. Concerning demography, absolutely no thinking going on in those tanks.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Ironic Demographics: Brooklyn Is Dying

Gentrification is dying at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Geography of mesofacts.


Other Links: 1. "Brooklyn Is Dying."
2. "Brooklyn And Park Slope Are Getting Less Alike, Not More."
3. "Pinsky: Middle class doesn’t need housing help."
4. "Voting With Your Feet."
5. "Rust Belt Resurgence: World Is Flat."

Postscript: "Brooklyn’s Chinese Pioneers: Hardworking Fujianese immigrants use the borough as a launching pad to the middle class"

While Brooklyn has gained international fame in recent years for its artisanal pickle-makers, hip-hop impresarios, and concierged condos, New York City’s largest borough has also undergone another—less media-friendly but (at least for longtime residents) equally unlikely—transformation. Over the past several decades, hundreds of thousands of mostly poor and sometimes undocumented immigrants from the Chinese province of Fujian have crammed themselves into dorm-like quarters, working brutally long hours waiting tables, washing dishes, and cleaning hotel rooms—and sending their Chinese-speaking children to the city’s elite public schools and on to various universities. The new Chinese immigrants are quietly having as great an effect on Brooklyn’s social, economic, and cultural landscape as are the borough’s hipsters and “trustafarians.” In turning a once-forgotten, now-overcrowded portion of Brooklyn into a launching ground into the middle class, they’re challenging new mayor Bill de Blasio’s portrait of New York as “a tale of two cities.”

This immigration probably explains Brooklyn's "dying" demographics.

Friday, May 02, 2014

In Cleveland, Income Growth Without Population Growth

Dying cities doing better economically than growing cities at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Ironic demographics.

Subject Article: “Unexpected brain gain boosts Cleveland toward new economy, study finds.”

Other Links: 1. “Globalizing Cleveland: A Path Forward.”

Postscript: Rural towns are not dying”:

“The worse possible way to gauge success in a community is by looking at the population sign coming into town,” Linscheid said. “It’s the poorest measure of what is really going on and all of the changes happening.”

Measures and metrics have a history. Each one was born of a certain time and place, a specific political-economy. The population numbers is not so much a fact as an artifact of an economic epoch.