At Nest, we’re big fans of deep thinkers in housing and urban policy. Recently we’ve been interested in the work put out by The Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University which puts out some of the best research on Texas’ housing markets. The Kinder Institute recently highlighted the latest thinking from Richard Florida, author of the popular book “Rise of the Creative Class”. Florida is now sounding alarm bells at the inequality observed in those same urban areas that are welcoming the creative class with open arms.
Florida sees two unintended consequences in the migration of the creative class back into America’s urban core: 1) neighborhoods that are not part of the desirable urban core are becoming poorer , and 2) the middle class is unintentionally being pushed out of their traditional neighborhoods. Florida coins this the “winner takes all” effect urban growth and it can be devastating to cities.
In San Antonio, the city reflects the narrative outlined by Florida. Desirable urban neighborhoods like the King William and Dignowity Hill districts have benefited from an increase in participation from the creative class and their high-paying jobs and heavy spending. Meanwhile, close to those same areas are neighborhoods that have struggled with poverty and hunger for the better part of the last century. In an environment where those residents likely work at or near minimum wage with little economic growth available, poor neighborhoods have little hope of supporting middle class families like they once used to. By one measure in fact- the “Distressed Communities Index” – San Antonio is the least equal city in America.
Florida advocates a skills and wages approach to addressing this problem. A higher minimum wage, along with trade and skills training could go a long way to helping alleviate the poverty observed in poor communities. Additionally, cities should concentrate on creating affordable housing units alongside the luxurious and high-density urban condo and apartment builds that are popular in Texas.
Nest, we advocate for the policy proposals put forth by Richard Florida. In re-building Texas’ urban cores, we need to invite every resident to participate and not be “pushed” out by economic forces that may create “winning” districts and “losing” districts. In addition to mandating some (not too much!) affordable housing percentage with new builds, it would be great to see cities work to boost minimum wages and invest in trade-learning programs.