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6 things about cities from Richard Florida

Last week Richard Florida headlined an “Urban Lab” panel at the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate. It was moderated by Sam Chandan, who is dean of the Shack Institute. 

Here are 6 takeaways from the discussion, with a few of my own thoughts attached:

1. Suburban brain drain. This is happening. Florida states that (real estate) development is the key to rebuilding the suburbs. It will challenging to reorient the suburbs away from the car (though suburbs vary greatly), but I do agree that many suburban areas need a refresh to keep them relevant against this brain drain.

2. Decline in home ownership. Florida believes we will see owning vs. renting drop to about 50-50. This would be a pretty big change given that US homeownership is currently hovering in the low 60s and this is already at historic lows. However, the trend is towards urban and that often means more renting.

3. New city characteristics. Access to urban amenities, cultural capital, and transportation is critical and should drive new development. Transit and rail infrastructure can “open up” new areas and combat issue #4, below.

4. Housing affordability. Florida reiterates “the great inversion.” Poverty moving to the suburbs; cities now housing the rich. He also isn’t sure that capitalism alone will solve this problem. Gives example of Manhattan where market is focused on high-end luxury residential.

5. Florida argues that planning and real estate knowledge need to come together to overcome some of the information-asymmetries inherent in the development industry. I’ve written about similar ideas before. I try and apply this sort of multi-disciplinary thinking to urban issues.

6. Micro-living is not a silver bullet for “chronic poverty.” I think it serves a segment of the housing market.

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