On this episode of Feudal Future, hosts, Joel Kotkin and Marshall Toplansky are joined by guests Harry and Fred Siegel. Fred is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. His son, Harry is a senior editor at the Daily Beast. Their conversation covers the future trends of cities, the workforce, and Manhattan.
“No Bourgeois, No Democracy”
— Barrington Moore
Protecting and fighting for the middle class regularly dominates rhetoric on the Right and Left. Yet activists on both sides now often seek to undermine single-family home ownership, the linchpin of middle-class aspiration.
The current drive to outlaw single-family zoning—the one protection homeowners possess against unwanted development—has notched bans in the City of Minneapolis and the state of Oregon, with California not far behind. Advocates have tapped an odd alliance of progressives and libertarians. Essentially, it marries two inflexible ideologies, in principle diametrically opposed, but neither of which see housing as a critical element of family and community. In its stead, the Left seeks to place the state in charge, while libertarians bow instinctively to any de-regulatory step they see as increasing “freedom and choice.”
Although couched in noble sentiments, both approaches are fundamentally hostile to both middle- and working-class aspirations. Without a home, the new generation—including minorities—will face a “formidable challenge” in boosting their worth. Property remains key to financial security: Homes today account for roughly two-thirds of the wealth of middle-income Americans while home owners have a median net worth more than 40 times that of renters, according to the Census Bureau. Equally important, a shift from home ownership would also weaken the basis of democracy. Since ancient times, republican institutions have rested on the firmament of dispersed property ownership.
An Odd Time for More Density
The push for ever-greater density and against suburban home ownership could not come at a less propitious time. Even before the pandemic, big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago were losing population. Since 2010, despite all the talk of a massive “return to the city,” suburbs and exurbs account for about 90% of all metropolitan-area growth. Millennials, often seen as an urban generation, have fueled population growth in the suburbs since 2010.
Millennials have had a hard time buying homes—among post-college millennials (25-34), ownership has dropped from 45.4% in 2000 to 37.0% in 2016, a drop of 18% according to Census Bureau data—but three-quarters want single-family detached houses, according a 2019 report on home buyer preferences by the National Association of Homebuilders. A 2018 Apartment List survey found that 80% of millennials dream of home ownership. Among those under 35 who do buy homes, four-fifths choose single-family detached houses.
This shift has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic, and could gain even more momentum from the rising crime and disorder in many of our core cities. Pew reports roughly one in four Americans either moved on account of COVID-19 or knew someone who did so, with the largest percentages for young people under 30. Since 2018, according to Gallup, the percentage of Americans saying they want to live in cities dropped 55%, down to barely 13%. Rather than the much-ballyhooed “back to the city” movement, we are entering what Zillow describes as “a great reshuffling” to suburbs, smaller cities, and less expensive states. Even non-metro areas, for the first time in over a decade, are beginning to gain population.
The rise of online work is likely to accelerate the trend. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom projects we will see telecommuting increase from 5% of the workforce before the pandemic to something closer to 20%. More important still, most people now working from home express a preference—some 60% according to Gallup—to do so for the foreseeable future. Even when offices opened early this summer in New York, real estate brokers report, most workers refused to return. And now developers, like KB Homes, are adding home offices to their newest offerings.
These trends will be reinforced by shifts in job markets. A new survey by the Site Selectors guild suggests that only 10% of companies are looking to expand in large cities, one sixth as many as choose suburbs, and a third of those who favor rural areas. Meanwhile major office and residential complexes are being downsized, cancelled, or hit with major price reductions in cities from Chicago and New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Read the rest of this essay on the American Mind.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.
In this episode of Feudal Future, Jay Garner join hosts Joel and Marshall to explore site selection and how COVID is shifting corporate location strategy.
In this episode of the Feudal Future podcast, Jim Young & Kirstie Acevedo of Gensler join hosts Joel and Marshall to talk about the workspace experiment, and how COVID is shaping the office of the future.
Right on cue, the country’s dominant political and media voices, after wildly applauding Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, have responded to Donald Trump’s week in the spotlight with laughter, derision and anger for its supposed amateurism, lack of star power, and racism.
And the convention has given critics plenty to laugh at, or cry if you are a Republican. The use of the gun-wielding wealthy St. Louis couple was a strange way to address the Democrats’ very real plans for undermining the nation’s suburbs. Placing the utterly clueless and unsympathetic Donald Trump Jr. on the podium, while elevating the Trump family over the party faithful, revealed a serious cognitive shortcoming worthy of the Bourbons. Read more
By virtue of being chosen Joe Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California has reasonable odds of becoming president someday—and probably better odds than the average running mate, given Biden’s advanced years and sometimes shaky public presentation. That’s cause for concern, not because she represents, as some conservatives fret, the far Left but because she will promote the spread of California’s increasingly feudal political and economic order, which undermines the upward mobility that long defined the California experience.
In this episode of the Feudal Future podcast, urban policy expert and noted demographer Wendell Cox joins hosts Joel and Marshall for a conversation on the COVID-19 pandemic, death rates, and public policy.
No future awaits those who rage against family, work, and community.
Where there is no bread, there is no Law. Where there is no Law, there is no bread.
— Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah
Racial identity politics has become the rage in the media, entertainment, and political worlds. You cannot read a mainstream publication, attend a sporting event, or browse a new educational curriculum without running a gauntlet of admonitions about America’s “systemic” racism and how it must be addressed, including through violence.
In Ma Jian’s new novel, the protagonist, Ma Daode, may be a corrupt, womanizing local official, but he is a corrupt, womanizing local official with a mission. His goal is to develop a drug that will allow President Xi Jinping’s vision of a glorious Chinese future to dominate not only citizens’ daily lives but their sleeping hours as well. This is his utopian quest. The China dream, Ma Daode suggests, “is not the selfish, individualist dream chased by Western countries. It is a dream of a people, a dream of the entire nation, united as one and gathered together into an invincible force.” This mindless worship of hierarchy and control permeates his thinking.