December 15, 2016

It used to be that the American Dream was a nice little house in the suburbs: a yard, a two-car garage, a white-picket fence, two kids, and a dog. Now, as millennials flock toward busy city centers, it’s beginning to look more like an apartment in a high-rise with ample access to boutique shops, restaurants, and cultural events. Alan Ehrenhalt, a contributing editor at Governing Magazine and author of The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, talks about why this is happening, and what the consequences might be.

Three Takeaways:

  • As younger, wealthier people move into city centers, poorer people are being pushed out by higher rents and cost of living. “There are working class suburbs, inner suburbs built and developed in the 1950s that are now becoming residences for the people who work at entry level or slightly above entry level jobs in the center of the city,” Ehrenhalt says. “They’re moving to suburbia, and it’s not the leafy suburbia that we might think of. We’re talking about fairly gritty inner suburbs.”
  • Many big cities are facing affordable housing crises. Ehrenhalt says the solution isn’t necessarily building cheaper housing, but more housing of all prices, even market rate. The more supply relative to demand, the more prices will fall across the board.
  • Gentrification isn’t just displacing the urban poor. Places like Manhattan and San Francisco are seeing new high-rise apartment buildings with multimillion dollar price tags and wealthy foreign buyers. “It’s not a good thing,” says Ehrenhalt. “I think you want a place like Manhattan to be affordable at least to the upper-middle class of locals. That’s what you might call hyper-gentrification.”

More Reading:

  • The Atlantic CityLab on how millennials and the working class are being priced out of many cities.
  • Millennials will live in cities unlike anything we’ve seen before, via Gizmodo.
  • The New Yorker on selling young people on the suburbs.

innovation hub, cities, Alan Ehrenhalt, urban, class, gentrification, Culture, City

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