Sunday, April 12, 2009

What Does Urban Success Look Like?

Aaron Renn from The Urbanophile writes at New Geography on Chicago's population loss. For instance on Chicago losing population to Indianapolis:
One key to this lies in affordability. For years Indianapolis has been ranked as the least expensive major housing market in America. Blessed with few natural barriers and pro-private sector governments, housing supply in these cities has grown along with population. Yet at the same time the negative impacts of sprawl have been mitigated by their modest – compared say to Dallas, Phoenix or Houston – growth rates and relatively small size. This leaves them attractive, affordable, and offering a very high quality of life to people without elite professional incomes.
On why Chicago is losing population:
Indeed what we can see is that there are different forms of urban success. In an ever more diverse America, people define the good life differently. Too much urban policy is focused on one size fits all solutions that assume cities should look and function something like Chicago. But America’s cities are very diverse and require tailored policies to suit the local landscape, and the unique local geography, demography, history, culture, and values that our cities bring to the table. Great cities, like great wines, have to express their terroir.
So who are those condos being built for?
If you told someone 15 years ago you lived in the South Loop, they would have said, “Huh?” If you had told them you lived by the old Chicago Stadium, they would have thought you had lost your mind. These and other neighborhoods that were once derelict or dangerous, as well as some that were low key ethnic enclaves, have been transformed into bustling yuppie playgrounds for the new “creative class”.

But there has been a downside to this for Chicago as well. The influx of the educated elite into the city has significantly raised housing prices in large parts of the city, rendering it unaffordable to others. Supporting the amenities demanded by the city’s new residents costs money, so taxes have gone up, doubling the squeeze on the city’s traditional residents, forcing many of them out.
Chicago is an incredible urban success story, but only for some. International immigrants and the creative class are flocking, but everyone else is leaving.
Go read the whole thing.

Article via YoChicago & Newsalert!

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