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American greatness was long premised on the common assumption that each generation would do better than the previous one. That is being undermined for the emerging millennial generation.
“From the Beginning, California promised much. While yet barely a name on the map, it entered American awareness as a symbol of renewal. It was a final frontier: of geography and of expectation.”
— Kevin Starr, “Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915” (1973)
When Donald Trump described the “devastating” conditions in America’s inner cities, emphasizing poor schools and lack of jobs, he was widely denounced for portraying our urban centers in a demeaning and inaccurate way, much as he had been denounced previously for his supposed appeal to “racial exclusion” when he asked black voters “what the hell do you have to lose” by backing him.
When Americans consider a move to another part of the country, they sometimes are forced to make a tough choice: should they go to a city with the best job opportunities, or a less economically vital area that offers a better standard of living, particularly more affordable housing? However, there are still plenty of metropolitan areas in the U.S. where you can get the best of both worlds.
What comes to mind when you think about Orange County? Probably, images of lascivious housewives and blonde surfers. And certainly, at least if you know your political history, crazed right-wing activists, riding around with anti-UN slogans on their bumpers in this county that served as a crucial birthplace of modern movement conservatism in the 1950s.
Politicians, housing advocates, planners and developers often blame the NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — lobby for the state’s housing crisis. And it’s true that some locals overreact with unrealistic growth limits that cut off any new housing supply and have blocked reasonable ways to boost supply.
But the biggest impediment to solving our housing crisis lies not principally with neighbors protecting their local neighborhoods, but rather with central governments determined to limit, and make ever more expensive, single-family housing. Economist Issi Romem notes that, based on the past, “failing to expand cities [to allow sprawl] will come at a cost” to the housing market.
Are you ready to become a “real” city yet, Southern California? Being “truly livable,” our betters suggest, means being “infatuated” with spending more billions of dollars on outdated streetcars (trolleys) and other rail lines, packing people into ever small spaces and looking toward downtown Los Angeles as our regional center.
Cities, noted René Descartes, should provide “an inventory of the possible,” a transformative experience—and a better life—for those who migrate to them. This was certainly true of seventeenth-century Amsterdam, about which the French philosopher was speaking. And it’s increasingly true of Texas’s fast-growing metropolises—Houston, Dallas–Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. In the last decade, these booming cities have created jobs and attracted new residents—especially young families and immigrants—at rates unmatched by coastal metropolitan areas.
In an election cycle full of spittle and bile, arguably the greatest issue --- the nature of governance and the role of citizens --- has been all but ignored. Neither candidate for president has much feel for the old American notion of dispersed power. Instead each has his or her own plans for ever greater centralization: Trump by the force of his enormous narcissistic self-regard; Hillary Clintonthrough the expansion of the powers increasingly invested in the federal regulatory apparatus.
Jerry Brown worrying about the California housing crisis is akin to the French policeman played by Claude Rains in “Casablanca” being “shocked, shocked” about gambling at the bar where he himself collects his winnings.
Brown has long been at the forefront on drafting and enforcing regulations that make building housing both difficult and very expensive. And now he has pushed new legislation, which seems certain to be passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, that makes it worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030.
An unconventional, sometimes incoherent, resistance arises to the elites who keep explaining why changes that hurt the middle class are actually for its own good.
The Great Rebellion is on and where it leads nobody knows.
Its expressions range from Brexit to the Trump phenomena and includes neo-nationalist and unconventional insurgent movement around the world. It shares no single leader, party or ideology. Its very incoherence, combined with the blindness of its elite opposition, has made it hard for the established parties across what’s left of the democratic world to contain it.
This is the introduction to an new report "The Cost of NOT Housing" authored by Joel Kotkin for the National CORE Symposium on Affordability of Housing. Download the entire report (pdf) here.
It is a commonplace view that housing does not contribute to the overall fiscal and economic condition of cities. Recent trends—both nationally and here in California—suggest that this is not the case. New housing, including affordable units, provide some direct stimulation through construction jobs, but also allow people, particularly young families, to stay, work and shop locally. Lack of affordable housing ultimately drives people, particularly the entry level and young educated, out of regions where their labor would be coveted by local companies.
In his new book, The Human City, Joel Kotkin looks at the ways cities succeed or fail in terms of how their residents are best served. Here’s a tour of some past models.
Throughout history, urban areas have taken on many functions, which have often changed over time. Today, this trend continues as technology, globalization, and information technology both undermine and transform the nature of urban life. Developing a new urban paradigm requires, first and foremost, integrating the traditional roles of cities—religious, political, economic—with the new realities and possibilities of the age. Most importantly, we need to see how we can preserve the best, and most critical, aspects of urbanism. Cities should not be made to serve some ideological or aesthetic principle, but they should make life better for the vast majority of citizens.
In this oligarchic era, dominated as never before in modern history by the ultra-rich, their movements are far more than grist for gossip columns. They are critical to the health of city economies around the world.
For the better part of a century, Southern California has been seen as the land of surfers, hipsters and youthful innovators. Yet the land of sun and sea is becoming, like its East Coast counterpart Florida, increasingly geriatric.
This, of course, is a global and national phenomenon. From 2015-25, the number of senior-headed U.S. households, according to the Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University, will grow by 10.7 million, compared with 2.5 million households headed by people ages 35-44.