What City Observatory did this week

1. The persistence of talent. City Observatory regularly stresses the strong connection between educational attainment and economic success at the metro level. We step back and look at how education attainment has influenced state level economic success over the past 25 years. The data shows that the fraction of the adult population with a four-year degree explains about two-thirds of the variation in per capita income among states, a relationship which has strengthened since 1990. And the effect is long term: 1990 education levels also are strongly correlated with 2015 incomes.

2. Visions of a future city. Our premise is that narratives and visions matter to the kind of cities we build. For most of the past century, we’ve built cities with the explicit vision of accommodating car travel, with devastating results. Going forward its critical that we select a narrative that reflects the kind of places we want to live in. We started our three-part examination of our visions of future city living by reviewing Ford’s presentation to the Consumer Electronics Show. Like General Motors’ 1930s vintage World’s Fair program, Ford offered up an auto-centric view of urban living–with a few half-baked and largely decorative nods to transit, bikes and pedestrians.

3. A perfect day. A contrasting narrative about idealized urban living comes from consumer electronics giant Samsung, in a long-form commercial called “A Perfect Day.” It shows an energetic group of teenagers on bikes and skateboards ranging over New York City and drinking in a wide variety of decidedly urban experiences. Its these experiences and the personal interactions the kids have with each other and the people that they meet–and not the technology–that make this “a perfect day.”

4. You don’t own me. Our third narrative is a 30 second micro-drama from Toyota, which only in passing features cars. Instead in focuses on a young chef who sees her creativity dashed by a corporate restaurant and instead quits this straight job to open her own food truck. She’s joined by a chorus of other young people–hiking, playing basketball, cycling, crashing headlong in roller derby–who are similarly rebellious. Again, the narrative here is that the city is about experiences, not how we travel. Toyota’s tag-line: Let’s go places.

Must read

1. More evidence that housing supply is moderating rents. Two of the nation’s hottest apartment markets have been Washington and San Francisco. In the past few weeks there have been reports from both cities that the surge in new construction is finally starting to have a visible effect on rents. According to Axiometrics, rents in San Francisco have declined 2.3 percent in the past year. Meanwhile, in the nation’s capital, Greater Greater Washington reports, a record number of apartments have been built in the District of Columbia. They add that rents are up 2.6 percent in the past year, notably below the national average of 4.0 percent.

John Ricco, Greater Greater Washington

2. Portland’s inclusionary zoning land rush. The imposition of inclusionary zoning in Portland (which took effect on February 1, led to a last minute rush to file building permit applications. In the two months before the new requirements took effect, developers applied for permits to build nearly 6,000 new apartments, more than the number of new apartments built in Portland in either 2013 or 2014. That adds to a pipeline that already swelled to more than 20,000 units. Now the city expects a long drought before developers propose any new housing under the new law, which requires them to set aside 10 or 20 percent of new units as discounted affordable housing. For the next few years, the surge in apartment supply is much more likely to provide rent relief for Portlanders will any affordable inclusionary units.

New Research

Young homebuyers prefer more central locations. Research from the Atlanta Federal Reserve looks at the locational preferences of young homebuyers, shedding additional light on question of whether today’s young adults are more likely to purchase homes in cities. Researchers Elora Raymond and Jessica Dill  find that after controlling for other factors influencing buying decisions, younger first time buyers are significantly more likely to live in the heart of downtown. For each additional year, the odds that a buyer will decide to live within one mile of the city center drop by 6 percent. This is further confirmation of the trend that we and others have documented.