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Old Posted Oct 8, 2019, 6:06 AM
memph memph is offline
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Originally Posted by Capsicum View Post
Why is there a trend in every part of the metro area declining in income in many cases? And why not that some places increase, while others decrease?

And does it make a difference if it's the lowest income parts of the metro area losing people by moving to the high income areas? Or if migration is out of the metro area entirely?
It was a somewhat oversimplified example, but I'd say the general trend is still that there's a lot more areas that are declining in income, due to the fact that population growth is happening in high income areas and population loss is occurring in low income areas.

Population loss in low income areas makes sense. You have issues with crime and schools, high taxes and absentee landlords that leads to housing getting run-down. The housing is simply not desirable enough (in terms of rent or resale value) to warrant much investment in maintenance, and gets gradually more and more run down as it ages until it's no longer really livable. Maybe there's a period when the landlord is unable to find tenants, or in case of foreclosure, where the bank is unable to find a buyer, and while the house is vacant, it gets damaged by squatters or scrappers to the point where it's unsalvageable.

Population growth in high income areas also makes sense. Good services, low crime, good schools, people want to live there, so new housing gets built. The new housing can also have the advantage of being more in line with what modern society wants a house to be like, whether that's no lead or asbestos, energy efficiency, granite counter tops and hardwood floors, 2 car garages... The upper middle class who can afford new construction would probably prefer that to an outdated house from the early to mid 1900s.

However, as a neighbourhood ages, it's housing stock gets out-dated, and starts to lose it's shiny and new lustre. It gets a little less desirable, and the point of entry gets lower, so more working class households can afford to move in. Often, they move into the more modest homes, like the multi-family garden apartments. The garden apartments and higher density homes often get built a little later, as the suburb starts to run out of land, but the local government wants to increase the tax base by allowing more units on the smaller remaining pieces of land, or perhaps to provide housing for the service sector workers that are required to support the upper-middle class population.

Then the more elitist people start to avoid the suburb because they don't want to live in suburbs and send their kids to school with people of lower classes. In the past, this also had a strong racial dimension, now there's less racism involved but probably still a bit with a certain percentage of the population. As a result, the pool of upper middle class people interested in living there decreases, and makes way for more working class people to live in the suburb. Then the more tolerant upper middle class people are starting to have mixed feelings about living there, as the impact on crime, resale value, schools and city services starts to get noticeable, and are less likely to consider moving to the neighbourhood.

That's the thing to keep in mind, even if things aren't bad enough to make existing residents leave due to the conditions, a neighbourhood can still decline, because existing residents are going to leave in some numbers for other reasons, like getting a new job, or downsizing, or upsizing in the case of young professionals that might want to move out of the garden apartments as they start having kids. So if a suburb is seen as "still ok" but no longer the "hot new place", it might get passed over by a lot of upper middle class prospective homebuyers, which means that those upper middle class residents that inevitably move out get replaced by more working class residents who can't afford the "hot new place" and are willing to settle with "still ok".

The main exception to the pattern of "everywhere is declining" these days is in core cities that have healthy downtowns and intact nearby neighbourhoods to gentrify. I suppose the reason why the Woodward Ave suburbs of Detroit were able to get more desirable is partly because they have many of the qualities people find desirable about downtown/inner city living like walkability, proximity to jobs, historic homes and mature trees, and Detroit is bombed out enough that it's not able to compete against the Woodward Ave suburbs as well as healthier urban cores are able to compete against their own streetcar suburbs.

The other exception can occur when there are significant geographic or government limits to continued outward growth. In that case, more new housing gets built in the inner core, and lower income areas don't get abandoned because there's a tighter housing market. Also as the city gets denser, homes on large lots get more and more valuable, and a lot of those can be in suburbs relatively far from downtown, so for example with Toronto, that's parts of Oakville, Thornhill and Southern Mississauga are getting wealthier.

However, for your typical sprawling city, like Nashville, Indianapolis, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Kansas City, Phoenix or Orlando, the vast majority of suburbs will be going down on the socioeconomic ladder and only a few inner city neighbourhoods will be going up.
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