Urenio Watch Watch: Cities

The Unaffordable Urban Paradise

In this article, Richard Florida describes how tech startups helped turn a handful of metro areas into megastars, but now they’ re tearing those cities apart. Urban areas provide the diversity, creative energy, cultural richness, vibrant street life, and openness to new ideas that attract startup talent. Their industrial and warehouse buildings also provide employees with flexible and reconfigurable work spaces. Cities and startups are a natural match. For years, economists, mayors, and urbanists believed that high-tech development was an unalloyed good thing, and that more high-tech startups and more venture capital investment would “lift all boats.’ But the reality is that high-tech development has ushered in a new phase of what the author calls winner-take-all urbanism, where a relatively small number of metro areas, and a small number of neighborhoods within them, capture most of the benefits.

In this article, he calls for a new kind of urbanism, where high-tech companies should embrace a shift toward allowing many more people, especially blue-collar and service workers, to share in the gains of urban development. In essence, technology driven urban development should become more affordable and concerned with social, environmental and social sustainability.

First, high-tech companies can work with cities to help build more housing, which would reduce housing prices. They can support efforts to liberalize outdated zoning and building codes to enable more housing construction, and invest in the development of more affordable housing for service and blue-collar workers.

Second, they can work for, support, and invest in the development of more and better public transit to connect outlying areas to booming cores and tech clusters where employment is’”and to spur and generate denser real estate and business development around those stops and stations.

Third, they can engage the wider business community and government to upgrade the jobs of low-wage service workers’”who now make up more than 45 percent of the national workforce’”into higher-paying, family-supporting work.

Access the full original article by Richard Florida on MIT Technology Review here.