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.