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Is outer city the new inner city?

What does the term “inner city” mean to you?

It’s a loaded term. But probably more so for North Americans than Europeans. For a long time, calling a neighbourhood inner city, was simply a nice way of saying poor. They were the neighbourhoods that people of means left behind when they fled to the suburbs with their cars.

But in today’s world it’s a stale term. So I think it’s about time that we officially retire it from our lexicon. All across North America inner city neighbourhoods – with their historic housing stocks and walkable main streets – have become some of the most desirable places to live. 

Author Alan Ehrenhalt calls this The Great Inversion (title of his book):

“What we are seeing is a reversal in which the words “inner city,” which a generation ago connoted poverty and slums, [are going to mean] the home of wealthier people and people who have a choice about where they live, and the suburbs are going to be the home of immigrants and poorer people. And Census figures show that that’s taking place.”

For many of us this, this isn’t news. The trends are clear. Young Americans are driving less and there’s been a growing preference for more compact and walkable communities.

But does this mean that outer city will become the new inner city?

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