In 2002, urbanist Richard Florida predicted a return to urbanism with his book The Rise of the Creative Class. The book underscores the importance of cities to economic development and the rise of a new economic class bred from creative industries. Now, 15 years later, his forecast has come to fruition—but there is a consequence. At the Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting this week in Los Angeles, Florida outlines what he calls the new urban crisis, or a rise of inequality, unaffordability and political divide as a result of the rise of urbanism. He explores the concept in his new book The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class—and What We Can Do About It, but gave some insight in his ULI speech.
The rise of the creative class and the return to urbanism has left many behind. Florida says that 45% of Americans do routine or low-income work and 65 million Americans have trouble surviving financially. Florida, however, says that it is a geographical divide, not an economic or social divide. “We live in separate worlds, where our ability to achieve upward mobility is different,” said Florida. “We occupy different universes. It is a crisis of our own success.” He went on to say that we are experiencing winner-take-all urbanism where disproportionate shares of benefits congeal in a small group, and the price of housing and residential real estate is stretched further and further. As some cities grow, other areas, like the suburbs, decline. This has lead to “a growing divide between the places that are winning and the places that are struggling to keep up,” he said.