Saturday, February 3, 2018

AFFH Has No Basis in the Fair Housing Act

AFFH Has No Basis in the Fair Housing Act

By Stanley Kurtz — May 17, 2016

Megacities of the Future , YIMBY Paradise?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Fixing the Racist Highways of America

Editor's Note: Are highways racist?  If so, the racist "Plan Bay Area" needs to rethink its policy of infill housing on brownfield sites (toxic waste sites) for affordable housing along the freeway. (aka. "transit oriented development").  I believe that economics and politics are stronger reasons why low income housing is in the "toxic danger zone" than overt racism.   It is positively shocking to me and fellow environmentalists,  that CEQA is being dismantled to allow developers to build on urban infill sites despite the unsafe environmental hazards.  Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to toxins in our environment.  

Anthony Foxx Wants to Repair the Damage Done By Urban Highways
During the first two decades of the Interstate Highway system, almost half a million households were displaced. Most were low income and people of color, Foxx said.
During the first two decades of constructing the Interstate Highway System, almost half a million households were forced to leave their homes.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is offering a surprisingly honest appraisal of America’s history of road construction this week, with a high-profile speaking tour that focuses on the damage that highways caused in black urban neighborhoods.
U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke at the Center for American progress today about the legacy of discrimination in transportation. Image: CAP
U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke at the Center for American progress today about the highway system’s legacy of discrimination. Image: CAP
Growing up in Charlotte, Foxx’s own street was walled in by highways, he recalled in a speech today at the Center for American Progress. Building big, grade-separated roads through thickly settled neighborhoods devastated communities, uprooted residents, and cut off the people who remained from the city around them.
“The people in my community at the time these decisions were made were actually not invisible,” he said. “It is just that at a certain stage in our history, they didn’t matter.”
From I-95 in the Overtown neighborhood in Miami, to the Staten Island Expressway, to I-5 in Seattle, freeways divided and weakened city neighborhoods all over the country. Foxx estimates that nearly 500,000 households were compelled to relocate by the construction of the interstate highway system between 1957 and 1977. Most were people of color living in low-income neighborhoods.
“Areas of this country where infrastructure is supposed to connect people, in some places it’s actually constraining them,” he said.
The speech marks the launch of a new initiative spearheaded by Foxx called “Ladders of Opportunity,” which aims to shape transportation policy based on how infrastructure can serve as a barrier, or bridge, to jobs, education, and better health.
Foxx’s power is limited. U.S. DOT doesn’t have the authority to simply turn off the federal funding spigot for projects like the Detroit region’s $4 billion plan to widen two highways, siphoning resources from struggling inner suburbs to more affluent, farther-flung communities. The transportation secretary can’t wave his hand and stop Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper from pumping more traffic and air pollution through north Denver with the widening of I-70.
Of the $60 billion in annual federal funding allocated to surface transportation, 90 percent is doled out to state and local agencies by formula, Foxx noted. The remaining 10 percent funds U.S. DOT operations, discretionary programs like TIGER, and transportation research.
Even when U.S. DOT is poised to back a project that aims to benefit a disadvantaged community, local politics often gets in the way.
Foxx used this image of the Atlanta area to launch a discussion about the disparities in sidewalk infrastructure in America.
Like many other urban roads, Atlanta’s Buford Highway doesn’t work well for a lot of people who live nearby.
Foxx singled out Baltimore’s Red Line light rail project to make his point. “We had planned to commit about $1 billion to this project, only to have it cancelled by the state of Maryland,” he said. The Baltimore NAACP and other groups have filed a civil rights complaint in response to Governor Larry Hogan’s decision to spike the project.
The disparities go beyond highway planning. “Look at our basic sidewalk infrastructure,” Foxx said, pointing to a photo of the notorious Buford Highway in suburban Atlanta. “You see these roads are really designed for cars, not people. There are no sidewalks, and where you see sidewalks there are no crosswalks.”
That leaves families like Raquel Nelson’s vulnerable. A driver killed Nelson’s 4-year-old son, A.J., while they were trying to cross a hostile road in suburban Atlanta, where crosswalks were few and far between. But it was Nelson who was charged with vehicular homicide.
“This is not an isolated case, not in Atlanta and not in this country,” Foxx said. “If we want a society in which everyone has a real shot no matter where they come from, then it’s imperative that we acknowledge that these divisions, past and present, still exist.”
So what can U.S. DOT do? Foxx said the agency is retooling some of its programs to better emphasize social equity. For example, U.S. DOT is making “access to opportunity” a priority when selecting which projects will receive TIGER funding. Foxx also said the agency will beef up its civil rights office, which has the power to shut down projects determined to have a “disparate impact” on disadvantaged groups. Historically, the office has rarely exercised that authority to police the social impact of highway projects.
Mostly, however, Foxx’s campaign will have to rely on the power of persuasion. He’s trying to change the hearts and minds of governors, transportation agency chiefs, and other decision makers by raising the profile of issues that transportation secretaries haven’t tackled head-on before.
“The question that we have to ask is, ‘What kind of country do we want to build?'” he said.

Is there a "Narrow Car" in your future?

Narrow cars are under development at all of the major auto manufacturers.  Personalized transport systems are unlikely to be replaced by mass transit.  Narrow cars will effectively DOUBLE our FREEWAY capacity at virtually no cost.

China to Build the Largest City in Human History

China is working on building a megacity that will have more people than the UK, Canada, and Australia combined. It's called Jingjinji, a megalopolis with Beijing at the center. And it might be just as nightmarish as you imagine.

This is what happens when you reply to spam email

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Urban Planning for the People

Urban Planning For People

The recent publication of the United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 2014 Annual Energy Outlook provides a good backdrop for examining the importance of current information in transportation and land-use planning. I have written about two recent cases in which urban plans were fatally flawed due to their reliance on outdated information. In one case, San Francisco's Plan Bay Area, the planners are ignoring reality, and a court challenge is underway. In the other, a court invalidated the city of Los Angeles Hollywood Plan.

Progress In Automobile CO2 Emissions

The new Annual Energy Outlook forecasts continuing and material progress in improving energy efficiency, reducing fossil fuel consumption and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars and light trucks (light vehicles). Per capita carbon dioxide emissions from light vehicles are projected by EIA to fall to 51 percent below the peak year of 2003 (Figure 1).

The gross (not per capita) 2040 carbon dioxide reduction from light vehicles is projected to decline 28 percent in 2040 from 2003. Most significantly, the reduction is to occur as gross driving miles increases 29 percent (Figure 2). The actual 2040 emissions are likely to be even lower, because the 2014 Annual Energy Outlook assumes no vehicle fuel economy improvements after 2025. Improvements in vehicle technologies and cars using alternative fuels, and under government incentives, seem likely.

The emissions forecast improvements have been stunning, to say the least. The 2002 Annual Energy Outlook had expected a 46 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions from light vehicles between 2000 and 2020. The revised forecast – which takes into account what actually has occurred – says there will be a 9 percent decrease.

This is the result of multiple factors. In 2002, EIA predicted a 55 percent increase in driving between 2000 and 2020. The 2014 Annual Energy Outlook revises that figure to 22 percent (Figure 3). Fuel economy is improving, which is being driven by stronger regulations as well as technological advances.

Driving is Down
Driving per capita fell nine percent from the peak year of 2003 to 2012. This decline is not surprising given the sorry state of the economy and high unemployment. Gas prices have risen 85 percent (inflation adjusted) over the same period. The decline in driving is modest compared to the increase in gas prices – a 0.9 percent reduction in driving per capita for each 10 percent increase in gasoline (Figure 4), inflation adjusted. This is half or less the reduction in transit ridership that would be expected if fares were raised by the same percentage.

Meanwhile, little of this reduction in driving has been transferred to transit. The increase in transit per passenger miles per capita captured less than one percent of the driving decline. Indeed, the daily increase in per capita transit use is less than the perimeter of a 20-to-the-acre townhouse lot.

With fewer jobs, higher gas prices and the new reliance on social media, as well as a rise in people working at home, people may have become more efficient and selective in their driving patterns (such as by consolidating shopping trips). Certainly those with jobs use their cars for those trips above as much as before.

Meanwhile, the EIA forecasts that driving per capita will rise gain, once the economy is released from intensive care. However, with the near universality of automobile ownership, the potential for substantial increases is very limited.

Hiding Success?

It might be thought that the planning community, with its emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, would be rushing to incorporate these into their plans and even to herald the improvements.

Yet, this is not the case. San Francisco Bay Area planners hid behind over-reaching state directives to "pretend-it-was yesterday" and employed out of date forecasts for vehicle emissions.

Data in Plan Bay Area documentation shows that 95 percent of the projected improvement in greenhouse gas emissions would be from energy efficiency improvements. These have nothing whatever to do with its intrusive land use and transport strategies. 

The additional five percent requires social engineering residents into "pack and stack" high density developments, virtually outlaw detached housing on plentiful urban fringe land and will likely cause even more intense traffic congestion.

California's high speed rail planners have made the same kind of mistake, using out-dated fuel economy data in their excessively optimistic greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The Illusion of Transit Mobility

Part of the problem is an illusion that people in the modern metropolitan area can be forced out of their cars into transit, walking, and biking, without serious economic impacts (such as a lower standard of living and greater poverty).

Transit is structurally incapable of providing automobile competitive mobility throughout the metropolitan area without consuming much or all of its personal income (of course, a practical impossibility). But there is no doubt of transit effectiveness and importance in providing mobility to the largest central business districts (downtowns) with their astronomic employment densities (Note 1). Yet, outside the relatively small dense cores, automobile use is dominant, whether in the United States, Canada, Australia, or Western Europe. The transit legacy cities (municipalities) of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, with the six largest downtown areas account for 55 percent of all transit commuting in the United States.

The Delusion of Walking and Cycling as Substitutes for Driving

Illusion becomes delusion when it comes to cycling and walking. Walking and cycling work well for some people for short single purpose trips, especially in agreeable weather. However, walking and cycling are inherently unable to provide the geographical mobility on which large metropolitan areas rely to produce economic growth. True, cycling does approximate transit commute shares in smaller metropolitan areas, like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Bremen, but still accounts for barely a third of commuting by car according to Eurostat data. Prud'homme and Lee at the University of Paris and others have shown in their research that the economic performance of metropolitan areas is better where more of an area's employment can be reached within a specific period of time (such as 30 minutes). That leaves only a limited role for walking and cycling.

Toward an A Non-Existent Nirvana?

The "Nirvana" of a transit-, walking-, and cycling-oriented metropolitan area proves to be no Nirvana at all. We don't need theory to prove this point. Take Hong Kong, for example, with its urban population density six times that of Paris, nine times that of Toronto, 10 times Los Angeles, 12 times New York nearly 20 times Portland, and nearly 40 times that of Atlanta.

This vibrant, exciting metropolitan area cannot deliver on a standard of living that competes with Western Europe, much less the United States. Despite the high density, the overwhelming dominance of transit, walking, and cycling, Hong Kongers spend much longer traveling to and from work each day than their counterparts in all large US metropolitan areas, including New York and in most cases the difference is from more than 50 percent (as in Los Angeles) to nearly 100 percent.

The problem goes beyond the time that could be used for more productive for rewarding activities. Housing costs are the highest among the major metropolitan areas in the eight nations covered by the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Hong Kong's housing costs relative to incomes are more than 1.5 times as high as in the San Francisco metropolitan area and almost five times as high as Dallas-Fort Worth. Meanwhile, the average new house in Hong Kong is less approximately 485 square feet (45 square meters), less than one-fifth the size of a new single family US American house (2,500 square feet or 230 square meters), though Hong Kong households, are larger (Note 2).

When households are required to spend more of their income for housing, they have less discretionary income and necessarily a lower standard of living. This loss of discretionary income trickles down to people in poverty, whose numbers are swelled by higher than necessary housing costs.

Planning is for People

Contrary to the current conventional wisdom, the prime goal of planning should not be to achieve any particular urban form. What should matter most is the extent to which a metropolitan area facilitates a higher standard of living and less poverty.
Note 1: In 2000, employment densities in the nation's six largest downtown areas (New York, Chicago, Washington, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia) was three times that of the downtowns in the balance of the 50 largest urban areas, and 14 times as dense as outside the downtown areas.
Note 2: According to the 2011 census, the average household size in Hong Kong was 2.9 persons. This is more than 10 percent larger than the US figure of 2.6 from the 2010 census.
Wendell Cox is a Visiting Professor, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Paris and the author of “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.
Photo: Prius photo by Bigstock.

My Journey from Tyranny to Liberty

I am an Chinese immigrant who come to America to seek freedom from the Communist China. I was born right before China’s Cultural Revolution and grew up in Chengdu, Capitol of Sichuan province, China. As you know, in China there is only one party that is truly in power: The Communist Party. The government, which is the Communist Party, controls everything: Factories, schools, the press, hospitals, land, and universities. Growing up there, I never heard of such a thing as a “private company." There were no choices of any sort. We were all poor. We had no gas or stove, no TV, no phones, no refrigerators, and no washing machines. In the cities, electricity was rationed. In the countryside, there was no electricity.

Our family of five had to live on the very low wages my parents earned. The local government issued coupons for people to buy everything from pork to rice, sugar, and flour and there was never enough. We got to buy only 2.2 pounds of pork per month for our family of five. We lived in a two room 'apartment', without heat in the winter and no indoor plumbing. I got impetigo every winter from the cold damp winter weather, which was common for kids to get. Eight families lived in our complex, and we had to share bathrooms (holes in the ground outside), one for all males, and one for all females. When the lights were out, no one would replace the bulb for a while so it would be totally dark to go to the bathroom. It became a quite scary adventure at night for us to go there. We had only government run hospitals which were filthy. I was afraid of going to a hospital because I might get diseases. The last two years before I left for college, we moved into a three-room apartment provided by my dad's work-unit. It had concrete walls and a concrete floor, a water faucet and sink, but no heat. It had a shared public restroom without a shower or bathtub - but, it was infinitely better than what we had before.

I was eager to go to school when I turned 6 years old. My parents did not let me to go to school because they needed me to babysit my younger brother who was one year old. They could not afford his child care. I cried for a long time that night. My parents felt so guilty so they bought me a movie ticket next day. Finally, I went to school at age of 7. I was so happy and motivated to be a top student. As a child, we were brainwashed in public school every day. We were taught that two-thirds of the world population were suffering and living in hunger and our socialist country was the best. We didn't think that maybe China should be counted as part of the two thirds of suffering humanity! We believed whatever the government told us because we did not know anything else. I thought the other countries must be hellish if they were worse than we were. Anyway, we chanted daily: “Long Live Chairman Mao, Long Live the Communist Party. I love Chairman Mao." I was so brainwashed as a small child that I could see Chairman Mao in the clouds or the cooking fire. He was like a god to me. We were required to read all of Mao’s Red books, wear Mao’s buttons, write journals, and confess any bad thoughts to Mao.

We were required to conform, not stand out as an individual. I was held back to join the Young Pioneers because I was not humble enough (I told my classmates I should be in the first batch to join due to my 100% grade on every subject and they reported on me). The big powerful state from top to bottom was always watching us very closely: from Beijing’s central government to our neighborhood block committees and police stations. We had no rights, even though our constitution said we did. It was very scary that local police could stop by our home to pound on the doors at night for any reason. The government told us how to dress (Mao’s suit), what to buy and eat (coupons), where to live (household registration system) and what to read (government newspapers). The land belonged to the people (the government actually) and citizens were not allowed to have any weapons or off to prison they would go. Things have changed a lot in China since the open door policy of Deng Xiaoping really got going in the early 1980s; people have more freedom than ever before to start businesses, get jobs in another city, travel overseas, etc, but the political system is still fundamentally the same one party rule.

My favorite teacher in high school told me that he was sent to a Re-education Labor Camp because the Communist Party punished those who criticized the party even though the party was asking for feedback. His health was ruined during those years. He said “China is not a country of laws." I was determined to study law in college. After three whole days, eight hours of testing each day, I scored very high and was admitted by Fudan University (one of the top five universities) in Shanghai law school. I became the first one in my entire extended family ever to go to college. When there I was depressed to find out that what we learned in school and what was reality were totally different things. The society was not ruled by law but ruled by men. After I became a law school faculty member at Fudan University in Shanghai, I had to be careful about what to say in the classroom or during the party political study and self-criticism meetings. My leaders in law school even intruded into my private life telling me, for example, that I received too many letters (I was too social), or I should not go to my boyfriend’s parents’ house for dinner and spend a night. I was a law school faculty member and yet I was still being treated as a child!

I realized I could not really have the personal freedom I dreamed to have if I stayed in China, so I decided to re-enter school in the USA. It was a long and stressful process for me to step down from my position and leave China. I went to the local security office to apply for my passport seven times and was treated as a deserter with papers literally thrown at my face. My law school made me sign a paper saying that I must return to my job in Shanghai after two years of graduate study, or they will eliminate my position and send my personnel file (everyone has one in China which follows you from birth to death) to my hometown in Chengdu, which would be a death sentence for my law teaching career. However, I was determined to leave and did not care about what I had to sign.

I arrived in America in 1988 with $100 in my pocket. The first ten years when I was in the U.S, I still had nightmares about being trapped in China by the government and having to dig a big hole in the ground, into the blue Pacific Ocean, so I could escape, jump into the Ocean, and swim to the United States. Even when I went back to China later to visit with my American husband in 1991, my fears would return. For example, staying at a friend’s apartment in Beijing, one night the police came to pound on the door and wanted to check our papers. Someone must have reported to them that that there was a foreigner in the neighborhood. I was pregnant with our first son at that time, and we were in deep sleep after midnight when the police’s door-pounding scared the heck out of me and brought all the childhood bad memories back. Fortunately, they only wanted to check our papers, or maybe just let us know who was in charge. Another time I was in China during June 4th (Tian An Men crackdown) anniversary for a business trip, I was in a business-friend’s car, when we were randomly pulled over by the local police to check out our IDs and search our car. They did not have to show any search warrant. I used to also travel often to Guangdong Province for business when I worked in Hong Kong. I remember the taxi drivers called the local police “mafia” because of their brutality and corruption.

I did not hesitate to become an American citizen in 1995. Here I could speak freely and have my rights protected. I do not take my new freedom for granted. I vote in every election. As a U.S. citizen, I have worked for private companies in Hong Kong and Denver. Later, I started my own business and worked hard to grow my business. For the past 15 years, my husband and I have raised three children in Parker, Colorado, enjoying a middle class life: kids, a house, a dog, and 2 cars. From the $100 I brought over from China to having my own businesses and properties, I know I am living the American Dream. All the immigrants I know who come to this country do so because they believe America is a land of opportunity and freedom. We know that if you are smart, work very hard, and save your money, you will be successful and make a nice living here. I love this country. I want my children to continue to enjoy the freedom that brought me here. I want my children to have the same opportunity I had to succeed.

By telling my own story, I wanted to share my message with you: big governments do not work; big governments are very dangerous because they eventually use force. Big government attracts people who love power and control. Big government seems to want to distract you and direct your choices to unimportant social conventions yet limit your choices on really important things like speech, self-defense, and property rights. The freedom we have in this country is precious. The governments in the US are essentially pretty good. However, we are losing more and more liberty every day. The two major parties of this country have always expanded the government (federal or state), even when they say they are shrinking them. Whoever is in power always wants to 'do' something, to 'solve' some problem. It never really works because government must use force to solve whatever problem of the day arises. Now the federal government is $17 trillion in debt from all the problems it has 'solved'; we are losing our freedom to choose in many aspects of our life: health care, education, speech, privacy, what we want to buy to protect our families, how much money we want to keep after our hard work, etc., and even in New York drink sizes! Big government is like a cancer; it will grow and spread and keep growing if we don’t stop it. Do not believe things will always get better. I know that people are born the same everywhere, yet their cultures and systems of government can be vastly different. Our culture, our people, and our increasing reliance on more government are, I think, a very dangerous trend.

The country has been on the wrong path for too long, all our governments have been growing bigger for too long. What kind of country is this if we have to work over a half of the year to pay all the taxes and fees: federal, state, city, county; including payroll, phone, gas, car license, eating out, hotel stays, air travel, licenses, tariffs, etc. We are taxed to death for many things we don't want and the country is broke. This is astounding to me. What kind of country is this if the government uses force to take your money and spend the way they see fit and still tell you it is good for you? Are you its servant or master? Do you own yourself or not? What kind of country is this if the government takes away your choice of marrying anyone who makes you happy? Are you a consenting adult or not? What kind of country is this if the government can put you into a prison for what you are consuming? What kind of country is this if we become like a China Socialist Iron Rice Bowl, where people are treated the same everywhere; where it does not matter whether you work hard or not, that you are told "If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." and where you must redistribute what you produce. What kind of country is this where the government monitors our private email and phone calls? What kind of country is this if the IRS can target you based on your political affiliation? Why have we Americans become so unsure of ourselves that we want to be like other countries and to think like them instead of wanting them to be like us? When did this change happen? Where is the America I dreamed of - full of strong men and women without fear of acting on their own behalf?

Big government people have always been attracted to power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 
Judy Arnold aka. "Captain Ahab", Marin Supervisor, narrowly won re-election by a few hundred votes June 2014.
She claims it was a plot by the Invisible Tea Party of Marin to end her political career
and vows to find every last one of them.

Steve "I am the King" Kinsey, Marin Supervisor, is pushing for urbanization initiatives
OUTSIDE his district while preserving his backyard in Woodacre.

Susan "Build, baby, Build!" Adams, Marin Supervisor works tireless to
 build government subsidized apartment buildings in her district.
Defeated by a landslide election in June 2014.

Kate "No Ears" Sears, Marin Supervisor, delayed discussion of the Strawberry Priority Development area, forcing one determined resident to appear before the board thirteen times to ask it be placed on the agenda.  This earned her the nickname Kate "No Ears" Sears.

Katie "Little Bo Peep" Rice, Marin Supervisor watches passively while the county of her birth
 gets turned in a dense, urban landscape by a juggernaut of special interest groups, developers, and her fellow supervisors.

In an act of supreme political arrogance, the Marin County Board of Supervisors are implementing a strategy to urbanize Marin. According to polls, voters are 70% opposed.

Big government people are perpetually alarmed busybodies who fearfully want to insert themselves into everybody's business here and abroad, telling them what to do or not do. That is why I felt I had to become an advocate for liberty. Let us stop these people now. Wake up and stand up. Remember how this country was founded and what our constitution really protects - Individual Liberty! Vote for liberty, vote for small, effective, and limited government.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Don't Judge Blacks Differently

Does race trump truth? In a confrontation between police and perpetrators, what is more important? Facts or skin color? When protests morph into riots, do we excuse bad behavior based on race? If we do, how are we ever going to end racism? Chloe Valdary, a student at the University of New Orleans, confronts these critical questions and offers a compelling answer. 

Why I love living in Marinwood- Nature

This is the real reason I love living in Marin. Nature in all her beauty. I lived in Los Angeles for 16 years and never saw a clear starry night under the pink glow of urban living. I gladly trade convenience, culture, fine dining and other "advantages" of urban living for a moments peace with nature. Photo taken from my garden in the early morning in Marinwood, CA.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Millennials Search for Home…On Their Terms

Millennials Search for Home…On Their Terms

Rarely has a generation spawned such a cottage industry of profiling. The largest and most diverse generation in American history, millennials are also the most contradictory, sparking endless intrigue, analysis and caricature. They’re at once idealistic and anxious, wholesome and distrustful. They consistently clamor for meaning and community while the polls show an unprecedented exile from the institutions (e.g. marriage and religion) that traditionally offered both. They’re the most educated and socially conscious generation to date, and yet with the help of social media, millennials are being driven to unprecedented levels of anxiety and loneliness.
How does all this play out in the housing market? As millennials come of age and the older tier in particular begins to settle down, there are four key trends worth noting. The first is that, for millennials, dollars have replaced relationships as the primary basis for security. The second is that they are leaving big and established coastal cities for smaller and reviving inland cities. The third is that many increasingly prefer to live in hybrid arrangements that integrate one’s life, work and play, which, along with costs, may explain the revived embrace of suburban amenities, albeit in fresh forms. And the fourth is that while this generation is less mobile than previous generations, there is a crucial divide between millennials who have agency to follow their desires – who some call the “supermobile” – and those who don’t.
Editor's Note: If you are a millennial and home ownership is important, don't be afraid to move.

Some of our favorite Millennial Musicians

The Screwed Millennial Generation Gets Smart


The Screwed Millennial Generation Gets Smart

It turns out that kids today want the same thing their parents did—a home of their own that they can afford to raise a family in.

It’s been seven years since I wrote about “the screwed generation.” The story told has since become familiar: Millennials, then largely in their twenties, faced a future of limited economic opportunity, lower incomes, and too few permanent, high-paying jobs; of soaring college debt and structural insecurity (PDF). The Census Bureau estimates that, even when working full-time, they earn $2000 less than the same age group made in 1980 (PDF). More than 20 percent of people 18 to 34 live in poverty, up from 14 percent in 1980 (PDF).
Incredibly, many pundits applauded these conditions and credited millennials, forced by economic circumstances into difficult choices, for fulfilling the old boomer dreams that the boomers themselves had long since abandoned of a less materialistic, greener future in dense and heavily planned urban environments.
The environmental magazine Grist envisioned “a hero generation” that will escape the material trap of suburban living and work that engulfed their parents. “We know the financial odds are stacked against us, and instead of trying to beat them, we’d rather give the finger to the whole rigged system,” the millennial author concludes. An editor at the same magazine declared herself a part of the GINK generation (as in “green inclinations, no kids”) that she said meant not only a relatively care-free and low-cost adult life, but also “a lot of green good that comes from bringing fewer beings onto a polluted and crowded planet.”
It has been often asserted that millennials (defined as the generation born between 1982 and 2002) do not want to buy homes or live in suburbia; Fast Company, saw this as “an evolution of consciousness.” The Guardian declares that millennials are refusing to accept “the economic status quo” while Wall Street looked forward to profiting from the idea that millennials will be satisfied to live within a “rentership society” (PDF).
But millennials, as noted in a new paper from Anne Snyder and Alicia Kurimska, aren’t embracing downward mobility but rather are increasingly creating their own aspirational strategies (PDF). Some are doing this consciously by ignoring the wise planners and establishing homes for themselves in suburban and Sun Belt locales once considered insufficiently hip.
Despite the hype from the press and urban planners, millennials are following in the footsteps of previous generations by locating on the periphery major metropolitan areas and Sun Belt cities, most of which are simply agglomerations of suburbs.
This pattern seems certain to accelerate as millennials enter their thirties, the age when contemporary populations tend to marry, settle down, and have children. To be sure, notes Pew, more 18- to 34-year-olds now live with their parents than with spouses or significant others for the first time since the question was first asked in the 1880s. But when they do leave the nest, albeit later than in previous generations, they are becoming adults whose collective decisions are not so different from those of their parents.
Their searches for homeownership and procreation reflect this trend. It turns out that millennials did not reject homeownership because of their enhanced social consciousness, but because of high prices and low incomes. In survey after survey, the clear majority of millennials—roughly 80 percent, including the vast majority of renters—express interest in acquiring a home of their own. A Fannie Mae survey of people under 40 found that the vast majority thought owning made more financial sense, a sentiment shared by an even larger share of owners (PDF). They cited such things as asset appreciation, control over the living environment, and a hedge against rent increases.
“Homes and families will change many millennials, much as they changed previous generations.”
As generational researchers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais have long pointed out, millennial attitudes about family and their preferred future remained fundamentally mammalian and surprisingly conventional, albeit with a greater emphasis on gender equality. The vast majority of millennials, according to Gallup and others, want to get married and have children. Their top priority, according to Pew, is to be “good parents.”
The average millennial is now in their late twenties, and will be well into their thirties by the end of the decade. Already, 16 million millennials have had children, up from barely 6 million a decade ago, a number that is likely to soar in coming years, particularly if this group continues the recent trend of more women, and especially better educated ones, having children in their forties.
Despite endless talk about millennials as the group triggering a “back to the city” movement, census data shows that their populations in many core cities are stagnating or declining. In April 2016, the real estate website Trulia found that millennials were rushing out of expensive cities, with the group making up roughly a quarter of the population in New York and Washington, D.C., but accounting for half of all departures from them.
Its report concludes: “To summarize, those who earn very little income, those who work in unstable, less urban-based, and low-paying industries, and younger generation households that have not yet established a stable career have moved away from these pricey cities at much greater rates than the rest of the population.”

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Between 2013 and 2014, only 2,662 people between the ages of 25 and 34 migrated to D.C., according to census data, roughly a quarter of the 10,430 people in that age bracket who arrived between 2010 and 2011.
Since 2010, the 20 to 29 populations have declined in the core areas of much celebrated youth magnets including Chicago (-0.6 percent) and Portland (-2.5 percent). Other areas, like Los Angeles and Boston, have lost millennials since 2015.
“In New York, incomes for young adults have dropped since 2000, even as rents have shot up by 75%.”
Costs appear to be key here. According to Zillow, for workers between the ages of 22 and 34, rent costs claim upwards of 45 percent of income in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Miami, compared to closer to 30 percent of income in metropolitan areas like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. The costs of purchasing a house are even more lopsided. In Los Angeles and the Bay Area, a monthly mortgage takes, on average, close to 40 percent of income, compared to 15 percent nationally. In many cities millennials seem destined to live as renters, without gaining any equity in property. In San Francisco, 18- to 24-year-olds now make up one of the fastest-growing homeless populations.
A recent survey by the UCLA Luskin School suggests that 18- to 29-year-olds were the age group least satisfied with life in Los Angeles (PDF), perhaps something reflected in the overbuilt and increasingly vacant downtown market. Similarly a recent USC study found that high prices made attracting talent increasingly difficult. In the Bay Area, according to ULI, 74 percent of millennials are considering an exit, largely due to high housing prices.
In New York, incomes for people aged 18 to 29 have dropped in real terms since 2000, despite considerably higher education levels among millennials (PDF). At the same time, rents have shot up by 75 percent.
Meanwhile, the much mocked suburbs have continued to dominate population trends, including among millennials. As people age, they tend, economist Jed Kolko notes, to move out of core cities to suburban locations. Although younger millennials have tended toward core cities more than previous generations had, the website FiveThirtyEight notes that as they age they actually move to suburban locations at a still higher clip than those their age have in the past. We have already passed, in the words of USC demographer Dowell Myers, “peak millennial,” and are seeing the birth of a new suburban wave (PDF).
To some extent, the meme about millennials and cities never quite fit reality outside of that observed by journalists in media centers like New York, D.C., and San Francisco. More than 80 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds in major metropolitan areas already live in suburbs and exurbs, according to the latest data—a share that is little changed from 2010 or 2000.
Suburban tastes remain predominant with 4 in 5 people under 45 preferring the single-family detached houses most often in suburban locales (PDF). Surveys such as those from the Conference Board and Neilson consistently find that most millennials see suburbs as the ideal place to live in the long run (PDF). According to a recent National Homebuilders Association report, more than 2 in 3 millennials, including most of those living in cities, would prefer a house in the suburbs.
“As millennials grow up, they are moving to the ’burbs at an even faster pace than previous generations did at the same age.”
In the process, note authors Snyder and Kurimska, their generation is also changing suburbia. “These transplants value high social cohesion and want neighborhoods with walking trails and other community features like fitness centers, local shops and manmade lakes,” they observe. They may also initially at least choose smaller homes, according to Zillow, and often in places closer to work and with more things close by to do. The good news for them: The majority of new jobs continue to be created in suburbs, along with most theaters, ethnic restaurants, and music venues.
At the same time, millennials are shifting to different regions. Much of this has to do with housing costs. The income required to buy a home in Silicon Valley ($216,000), San Francisco ($171,000), Los Angeles ($115,000), or New York City ($100,000) dwarfs what is required in places like Orlando ($54,000), San Antonio ($54,000), or Nashville ($47,000).
Not coincidentally, those more affordable places are growing their millennial populations far more quickly. The Millennial homeownership rates is 37 percent in Nashville 29 percent in San Antonio and 27 percent in Orlando, compared to under 20 percent in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
To be sure, some millennials are moving into downtowns in these places, at least for a few years, but many more remain in what Grist called “sprawling car dependent cities.” Among the 10 major metropolitan areas whose 25- to 34-year-old populations grew most rapidly between 2010 and 2016, seven have more than 95 percent of their population in suburban or exurban settings.
In fact, most of the places with the biggest growth among millennials are highly suburban, sprawling cities. The top 10 regions with the fastest growth in their 25- to 34-year-old populations since 2000 include nontraditional urban areas such as Austin, Orlando, San Antonio, San Bernardino-Riverside, Las Vegas, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Jacksonville. In contrast, Boston ranks 40th out of 53 metro regions, New York 44th, San Jose 47th, Los Angeles 48th, and Chicago 51st.
So perhaps there is hope, after all, of millennials as a “hero generation.” As more of them follow their parents’ path to homes of their own in the suburbs and the Sun Belt’s sprawling metros, they will surely be changed by their environment and they will surely change it. Parenting, as well as homeownership, tends to make people more conservative.
While the strongest population growth now takes place in what Jed Kolko calls “the suburbiest” suburbs, those on the outer fringes, even there millennials are drawn to locations with town centers—whether restored or created—and prefer things such as bike trails and parks over golf and malls. The millennial suburb, as MIT’s Alan Berger has noted, will be different—more walkable, more environmentally sustainable, and likely more connected eventually by autonomous technologies.
While millennials may push back against the efforts of progressives, evident in California particularly, to limit suburban development that thus closes off their housing options, they will also oppose the culturally conservative agendas that long dominated many suburbs. This will be particularly true in areas attracting young minorities, such as northern Virginia, Ft. Bend County, outside of Houston, and Orange County, California.
In this sense, the millennials may be our best hope for a more reasoned future. They are unlikely—particularly as they raise families—to embrace planners’ fantasies of a high-density future. What they can accomplish is to shift the debate about how we live toward a more reasoned, collaborative, tolerant but also family-friendly direction.
That alone would make them smarter than their parents.