A two-part film documentary about America`s aging “inner ring” or “first” suburbs as they are called was released recently. The piece is called The New Metropolis and was intended to get dialogue going about the future of these places. A lot of these older suburbs have been losing population and economic viability at a time when the economy is not great and their physical infrastructure, public and private alike, is aging and in need of major investment, or even outright replacement. The link below provides more information on the film and supporting video from its website. Well worth a look. The second and third links are from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area where the older suburbs are experiencing exactly the kind of change described in the movie.
New Metropolis site
Declining suburbs: Twin Cities-area project focuses on how to revitalize these communities Daily Planet
Twin Cities suburb growth becomes thing of the past StarTribune Local
They say trust is the most important single thing in any economy, more than precious metals, cash, land, technology …anything really. A trust also can be an actual financial mechanism and here we see a nice example from the US and Britain. Community land trusts offer a tool for keeping people in neighbourhoods they are attached to but cannot afford due to wild price increases. The idea is to keep balance in urban areas where working people would like to stay but cannot afford, or even find, appropriate homes especially when they are ready to have a family. CLTs work, it seems, by detaching property from price speculation by individuals. What a wildly fantastical notion! The idea that a house is a thing you own and represents your relationship to a place as if you cared about it for some reason other than the fantastic amount of dollars or pounds you think you might pocket down the road. Surely this kind of thing will grow and help us keep cities balanced places. We wish this would catch on in Canada! If this intrigues you read on…
A revolution in affordable housing Guardian
We aren’t saying that older, centralized urban hubs should be ossified on behalf of the poor. But these ideas to manipulate and reposition socio-economic groups are no better than deliberate neighbourhood busting via highway projects or gentrification, are they? Where’s the balance? Linked here is an item from the Guardian for just such a scheme that would see people incentivized from London to the much smaller community of Hull on the North Sea.
photo credit: MichaelMaggs via Wikimedia Commons
Here are links to two mainstream internet video journalism pieces on suburban poverty. One is from Fresno, CA. The other is from North Bergen, NJ. The North Bergen piece is pretty shallow stuff, hit-and-run, low cost journalism. A reporter talks to a food bank user who has seen her aspirations to be middle class evaporate over the last few years and, my goodness, it apparently sucks for that person.
The California piece is a little better, takes in the problem and goes for a bit of a walkabout with people capable of analysing the big picture and involved with activist responses. Either way…
The New Poor of Fresno Time Video
America’s New Poor CNNMoney
We used to think the future would be more about flying space cars than about living in cars …but that’s how it goes, apparently. If you find your own self unable to pay off student loans or cover rent and end up living in what used to be a symbol of middle class aspiration, the item linked below is for you. It’s a depressingly long wiki article with a dozen-and-a-half citations and over 40 contributors. Gosh, but there’s a lot of little details to get down pat when it comes to living in a metal box! Our favourite pointer is the advice never to sleep in the driver’s seat of your castle. Apparently if you do your body and brain may too closely associate that location with sleep and cause you to have a collision, …assuming you actually have somewhere to drive to.
How to live in your car
Latest US numbers for job creation are actually pretty good according to mainstream media. Seen against the oft-mentioned-around-here 2010 US Census the Americans still have an ordeal ahead of them in regard to people and the economy. Here is a piece from Chicago with nothing missing from the picture of suburban poverty.
Lack of jobs leaves more suburban, middle class sliding into poverty
If you came by looking for some serious depth-of-treatment regarding suburban poverty you could do much worse than giving up ninety or so minutes to Scott W. Allard from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. He points out that suburban poverty is not just driven by outward movement of people but exists for its own local reasons as well. Professor Allard is working on a new book. We’re probably gonna read it.
Places in need
Last fall, The Economist published a piece that put Canada on a list, with a few other smaller countries, of those eligible for a significant correction of real estate prices. Hasn’t quite happened yet. The country gains a quarter million immigrants a year and is set to become even more of a petro state in the future. Both things keep traditional ideas and indicators of growth cooking along. A number of large resource extraction projects are also on the books and these will likely bring in the cash, too. Thing is, if real estate prices remain jacked up it makes things tough for the working poor. It’s a mixed blessing for the beleagured middle classes, too. Home equity makes a lot of them feel richer and smarter than they really are. A real estate wipe-out would hurt, but we can already see there’s pain in this long boom, it just depends who you are. For the suburban poor, high prices for real estate mean the rents are jacked higher than wages and for the middle class homes remain overpriced. Hard to say what will happen. We heard on the radio today that, according to the governor of the Bank of Canada, the bad economy in the United States costs Canada as much as $30bn a year in lost export trade. Wow! Will we crash the way the Americans have, just a bit later, or will we skate through this era of debt and disaster to whatever era arrives afterward?
Economist bubble piece
Bank of Canada comments Huffington Post Canada
Bubble case studies: Ireland & Canada Automatic Earth, 2010
Photo credit: Marceltheshell via Wikimedia Commons
Canadians count themselves a fortunate people. Perhaps that’s why they are such squanderers as well?
Case in point, the vast suburban project directly west of Toronto. Mississauga enjoyed a true golden age of property development, a California-esque era of low taxes, easy services, smugness, and growth, growth, growth. The cornfields went down. The houses went up. The money changed hands. Now, it looks like the party is over in the city whose official tag line is the frighteningly vacuous “Leading today for tomorrow.” If the private and public economy alike can’t be kept up by a massive flow of development-based revenue then what will happen? Nobody seems to know but denial isn’t really an option any more. This year, the city that bragged about never laying off staff and not needing tax increases levied a whopping 7.4% increase on its property tax payers. Imagine the pain in a true blue Tory place that kind of thing brings on!
Architecture and urban affairs columnist Christopher Hume pulls punches in the item linked below. Even if you hate the kind of sprawling megasuburb Mississauga is you can’t read a demolition job like this without a fearful feeling of apocalypse to come.
Hume: Mississauga waking up to a new reality Toronto Star
Between Lake Simcoe and the northern border of Toronto lies York Region. It has just a shade over one million people and has been the venue of some very high intensity real estate development since the 1980s. It would appear to represent the pinnacle of fast growth and high-profit, up-to-the-minute suburban mega-success. Guess what? They have poverty and homeless people. The proof is available from the York Region Alliance to End Homelessness. Still photos and voiceovers tell the story overlooked amidst all the commercial activity, monster homes, and cars, cars, cars. You know, they probably should have just kept growing corn up there…
Hidden In Plain Site