Author Joel Kotkin gives his address at the 2013 REBIC Forum
Nearly 200 Realtors®, home builders, developers, planners and community leaders gathered last Wednesday at UNCC’s Center City Building to hear noted author, demographer and urban theorist Joel Kotkin describe his vision for how America will grow in the coming decades, and how cities like Charlotte can position themselves for a coming population boom.
A Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, California, Kotkin recently published his latest book, The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, which describes the changing nature of the American household and the implications it has on urban growth. In his lecture, Kotkin explained that, while American households are becoming both more diverse and more multi-generational, their preference for suburban living only continues to increase.
That perspective is in sharp contrast to the case made by many Smart Growth advocates, who argue that an increasingly large number of Americans are abandoning suburban life for a return to the city, where jobs, restaurants and amenities are just a short from home. Relying on a mix of census data and consumer preference surveys, Kotkin made the case that the majority of consumers want a detached, single-family home outside the urban core, and that the changing nature of employment and the increased in teleworking options help make this an increasingly attainable choice.
Charlotte, he said, is particularly well positioned to take advantage of this trend, with its vibrant suburbs, affordable cost of living, and strong employment base. He labels us an ‘aspirational city,’ where middle- and working-class people can migrate and find opportunities to make their life better.
“A family moving from Singapore doesn’t come to America to live in a 600-square-foot apartment in the middle of the city,” he said. “If they wanted that lifestyle, they could have stayed in Singapore.”
More than 200 people attended the 2013 REBIC Forum to hear Kotkin’s lecture
Challenging (and occasionally offending) elected officials, developers and planners, Kotkin argued that cities needed to focus more on enhancing their suburban and exurban neighborhoods, instead of trying to push for higher densities and a return to the urban core. Transit strategies, he said, should focus on mobility and access for the working poor, not on providing economic incentives for developers.
“What lures skilled workers,” he said, “is not gourmet restaurants, art museums and trendy nightclubs, but family-friendly communities close to work, good jobs, and affordable housing.”
REBIC appreciates the participation of all our partners who helped bring Kotkin to Charlotte for our 2013 Forum, including, the Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association, the Piedmont Public Policy Institute, UNC Charlotte, and True Homes. We look forward to continuing this important dialogue about how our region grows, and to finding ways to ensure Charlotte remains one of the most attractive cities in America to live, work, and raise a family.
To download Kotkin’s slide presentation from Wednesday, click HERE.