Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cities take turn towards playground for rich

A generation ago, America's cities stood in a state of decay, largely abandoned by the wealthy for more suburban locales that sprawled across metropolitan areas that encircled urban centers.

Cities are increasingly home to only the wealthy.
But a funny thing happened in the last 20 years -- many children of those people who fled the city decided they wanted to live downtown, or at least closer to it. The result was places like New York City, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco became revitalized, but also insanely expensive. And many who had rode out the difficult times were now left to find someplace else to live.

Why is this? The population shift is a symptom of the times we live in. Many of those "making it" come from dual-income families that earn and therefore can spend more. But most everyday Americans don't fall into that category. In fact, for many of "the rest," pay has actually fallen in recent years.

A new National Bureau of Economic Research document details that shift. The more wealthy, increasingly white urban population can afford to buy homes close to their jobs. But most can't. As the Huffington Post details about the report:
This is primarily a story about time: Skilled workers, somewhat paradoxically, are working more than their unskilled counterparts. So gentrification becomes about moving to try to maximize the leisure time they have in the fraction of their lives that isn't spent sitting at a desk. 
But this is also a story about transportation and density, two things that American cities are notoriously poor at managing. If we built higher, more people could live closer to work for cheaper (empty foreign real estate purchases in New York aside). Similarly, if there were better public transportation from the city peripheries, there would be less need for the wealthy to crowd into the city centers.
The Teamsters agree that transportation plays a major role. That's why the union put forward it's "Let's Get America Working" platform earlier this year, and why a real investment in infrastructure is needed.

But with that said, neighborhoods are more vibrant when they are represented by a cross-section of this great country. People may not be able to live in their dream home, but they shouldn't be forced from the places they've called home for decades either. American cities should have a place for everyone to put down roots.