Going Beyond the "Numbers Game"

Froma Harrop responds to Joel Kotkin's view that booming centers -- mostly in the Sunbelt -- represent the future of American urbanism.
February 5, 2010, 1pm PST | Michael Dudley
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On the eve of the housing bust, Joel Kotkin had opined that growth would not be occurring in America's (so-called) "elite" cities, but rather in cities he deemed "younger, more affordable and less self-regarding."

Froma Harrop argues that his analysis is misguided and had been proven so by recent events. The booming sunbelt cities he praised are those worst hit by the real estate bust. She writes,

"Boom-city boosters like Kotkin play a numbers game, where the place with the biggest population explosion wins. This is also a kind of Blue America-versus-Red America urbanology, which includes an element of liberal-bashing: Any place that refuses to be steamrolled by developers is called 'elite.'

There's little point in pitting cities, regions and states against one another. This is a big country.The older coastal cities tend to be hemmed in by water on one or more sides. Their housing is expensive because they don't have much land left to build on. To blame just their zoning laws is simpleminded. It makes sense that more urban growth will happen outside the older, already crowded metropolises. But let's drop the childish notion that if Houston is growing, San Francisco, a coastal city with a more stable population, must somehow be declining. There's more to happiness than the census count reveals."

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Published on Thursday, February 4, 2010 in Truthout
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