Saturday, March 23, 2013

Midwest State Cities Stomping on Blue Coast Cities

Joel Kotkin, once again, documents how red state cities are out performing the blue state cities traditionally championed by academics and certain organizations. For at least a decade, and perhaps longer, I have heard about how the New Urban city was the future of the United States. That urban sprawl, with their nasty petroleum powered cars, would disappear the urban cores of cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco  so on and so forth, would become the model for the country. A 2,000 square foot house in the suburbs with a yard and fence, with a dog, was out and a small 400 square foot Japanese-style micro studio was in.  Being interested in Real Estate, and working in in the field in one shape or form for almost a decade, I have been hearing this for quiet some time. But the data belies the reality.

This was something I noticed back when I was in college, and I actually stated as much in my urban sustainability class.  Needless to say my comment,which criticized the feasibility of the New Urbanist movement, wasn't well regarded.  Now they weren't entirely wrong, we are seeing more and more Americans move away from rural centers, but it isn't to the downtown cores of the major cities, rather, it is the satellite cities of major urban centers, and the urban centers that do not abide by the New Urbanist philosophy  that are growing at the highest rates. It isn't hard to see why, the first driver, when factoring where people move is economic opportunity. Cities with plenty of jobs, Austin or Houston, are going to grow faster than cities that do not, Detroit. The second consideration is that only a small few, of Americans anyways, actually enjoy living in a city. Sure, we want to be relatively close to a major urban center, but we want space, and perhaps more importantly, we like to live in areas that are clean and free of crime.

This explains why suburbs are rapidly urbanizing, though the nature of their urbanization is very different from traditional downtown. The largest suburb of Seattle, Bellevue, has undergone rapid urbanization since I was a kid, and the downtown is now dotted with a bevy of gleaming metal skyscrapers. The one major difference between Seattle and Bellevue, other than the cascadia hipsters absolute loathing for it's 'fakeness', is that there is no graffiti, no litter and very little crime.  It's the best things about a city, the restaurants, the jobs, the ease of getting around on transit, without all the things everyone hates. Sure, hipsters pretend to love the filth, though Seattle is still better than 95% of the major cities I have visited, the crime and the degeneracy; ever see two homeless people bang on a pile of garbage? I have...  But the moment they have kids they vacate downtown for the more 'suburban parts of the city for districts like Green lake, Queen Anne, Fremont, or Madison, or they realize that it's even better out of Seattle and move to one of the 'burb cities.

Unsurprisingly individuals blinded by new Urbanist ideology will ignore this data. But the fact is that people don't want to live in cities if they can help it. I should know, most every major developer, I have ever meet lives in the 'burbs for a reason. It's just nicer.


  1. I've lived in DC the past few years, and I can attest that living in the city is sub-optimal. The traffic is horrendous, and simply performing typical chores can take a few hours depending on the traffic volume. You also have to compete over parking not only where you live, but when going anywhere near the city. When forced to live in an apartment, your privacy is significantly reduced, and your usable space is sacrificed. I can't wait to be back in the burbs

  2. I hadn't thought about it this way, but while determining where I'd prefer to live I did consider that the jobs are in the cities, but I need a house with room for a boat, which will not occur inside cities.

    Madison, Wisconsin is sometimes called,"the hole in the doughnut" because its extreme progressiveism drives people away, and yet the downtown bars, university, stores, etc. are where people want to visit regularly. We want to be near downtown, but because of all the stupid laws and lack of space, we settle for the suburbs with their lack of crime and proximity to where we want to visit.

    1. Seattle isn't a whole in a donut, yet, but what you just mentioned is exactly the sentiment I have been hearing from my friends. 'I love all the cool things in Seattle but...' followed by a litany of reaons why they are slowly considering moving out of the core of Seattle for the more suburban districts of the city.

  3. This is also a battle between the childless. Anyone with kids will not want to contain them in a small apartment. The cost of 1200 sq ft in most cities is out of reach for many with kids. Matt Yglesias can discuss urban development all he wants because the guy has no children.

    1. Absolutely right. Most of the focus, prior to the crisis, on real estate was focusing on 'empty nesters' now it seems to have shifted to the 20 to 30 something childless couple. Funny thing, as you mentioned, most 20 to 30 somethings can't afford a single bedroom much less a two or more bedroom for a family.


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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.