Up and down the west coast.
In Seattle (from the New York Times):
Wealthy Chinese have become far and away the biggest foreign buyers of real estate in Seattle in recent years, accounting for up to one-third of $1-million-plus homes sold in certain areas, brokers say. Seattle real estate agents are hiring Mandarin speakers and even opening offices in Beijing. Builders are designing much of their new construction for Chinese buyers. …
The boom may be just starting. A survey by the Hurun Report, a China-based wealth research firm, found that 64 percent of China’s millionaires have emigrated or plan to emigrate in coming years. They listed their favorite destination as the United States, followed by Canada and Australia. While respondents cited better education, air quality and food safety as their main reasons, concerns about political and social stability have also caused the wealthy to secure more of their fortunes overseas, according to advisers to wealthy Chinese families. Chinese residents held an estimated $659 billion offshore in 2013. The number is expected to surge to $1.9 trillion by 2018, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
And yet (from the Seattle Times):
A new study from the Portland-based think tank City Observatory contends just that: Seattle hasn’t experienced any significant gentrification — and in fact, the phenomenon of gentrification is far less pervasive in U.S. cities than commonly thought.
It comes down to to what you mean by gentrification, of course. It’s a tricky term, with no hard-and-fast definition.
“Some people see gentrification happening when someone richer than them moves into the neighborhood” says economist Joe Cortright, one of the authors of the new study. “But if our concern about gentrification is the displacement of poor people, the fact is it has not had much of an impact.” …
Our focus on gentrification is misplaced, Cortright says, since the spread of concentrated poverty is a much larger trend, and has a far more negative impact on the lives of poor people.
“If we just mean some re-arranging of nonpoor neighborhoods when we talk about gentrification, that’s a different issue,” he explains.
In San Francisco (from sfgate):
From Daily Scot: Documentary on the gentrification of the Mission district in #SanFrancisco. (Go here for stories.)
In Boulder (from the New York Times):
In Boulder, Colo., Google is running into problems that would be quite familiar to people in the Bay Area. Over the past month, as the City Council approved a plan to let Google build a four-acre campus where the company would have the space to quintuple its local work force to about 1,500 people, there has been a spirited debate about Google’s potential effect on local home prices and whether the company’s country-club-like campuses would pair with the city’s desire to increase walking and pedestrian traffic.
It’s easy to see why Google would want to be in Boulder… But cities — in particular, cities like Boulder that are already pretty successful — can have mixed feelings about good, well-paying jobs of the sort Google brings.
“Prices are rising. We are becoming less and less affordable to lower and middle income. We’re also seeing local businesses that have been here for decades being priced out,” said Suzanne Jones, a City Council member. “It puts a finer point on this issue of, where are we headed? Attracting big business is great, on the one hand, but it will be part of that change on the other.” …
Still, Elizabeth Payton, a member of the planning board, pushed back against the idea that Boulder is lucky to have Google. Maybe, she said, it is the other way around.
“The citizens have worked really hard and they have paid a lot of extra taxes to create this fabulous place,” she said. “It may be luck, but maybe we created this place where Google wants to be. Maybe it’s not just luck.”
Meanwhile, back in San Francisco (from sfgate):
Well aware of the tensions in the city as longtime residents are evicted or priced out, (Mayor Ed) Lee has made building 30,000 new housing units citywide by 2020 the top priority of his administration, with a third of those affordable to the lower and middle classes. That would require building at a pace unmatched in the city’s modern history. Even if the target is reached, a San Francisco Civil Grand Jury report released in June cast doubt on how much it would affect home prices.
Lee’s goal “will provide some relief to the current shortage, but exactly how far it will go in addressing the affordability issue depends on many factors and the outlook tends to be gloomy,” the report said.
Still, the mayor’s administration says the problem will only be worse if it doesn’t act on multiple fronts, including the plan to develop under-used public land.
In Los Angeles (from the New York Times):
Built for the most part on spec, bestowed with names as assuming as their dimensions, these behemoths are transforming once leafy and placid neighborhoods into dusty enclaves carved by retaining walls and overrun by dirt haulers and cement mixers. “Twenty-thousand-square-foot homes have become teardowns for people who want to build 70-, 80-, and 90,000-square-foot homes,” Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz said. So long, megamansion. Say hello to the gigamansion. …
… calling out a neighbor for overbuilding is a little like Lady Gaga accusing someone of overdressing. And some say that the pushback against the prince stems less from construction concerns than from ethnic enmity. “They don’t want a Saudi prince,” Mr. Abdulaziz’s lawyer, Ben Reznik, told Vanity Fair, which devoted a column to the controversy.
In a city traditionally as hostile to architectural preservation as it is hospitable to architectural innovation, the gigamansion trend is accelerating the decimation of residential gems.
And Vancouver (plus Toronto and Montreal) – from the Globe and Mail:
Increasingly the divisions in Toronto cut across the city and suburbs, with the real divide being along lines of economic and social class.
And not just Toronto, the same kind of class divisions can be seen in Canada’s next two largest metro areas: Vancouver and Montreal.
The maps below are from a new study, The Divided City, that I conducted with my Martin Prosperity Institute team, to track the stark new urban geography of class. They chart where the three main classes of workers live in each city: The affluent professionals and knowledge workers who make up the “creative class” (people who work in technology, science, media, business, medicine, the arts, and education); the much lower-paid and faster-growing “service class” (people in retail sales, routine administration, food preparation, and personal care); and the dwindling blue collar “working class” (people who work in manufacturing, construction, and transportation).
Predominately creative class areas are shaded in purple, service class areas beige, and working class neighborhoods blue (data are from Statistics Canada).
Vancouver is even more severely class-divided than Toronto. Its affluent knowledge workers, professionals, and creatives are clustered in and around its core and form a huge, self-contained wedge to the west and the north around natural amenities like parks and mountains. Its service class is pushed to the more disadvantaged and less well-served areas of the south and east. Again there is just one small working class neighborhood that remains. …
These new class divides are cause for deep concern. Canada’s once thriving middle-class neighborhoods are being hollowed out. Instead we are seeing enclaves of advantage juxtaposed against a growing sea of socio-economic disadvantage.
Finally, a graphically brilliant history of gentrification over the last half century, by Next City: