Housing costs leading to exodus
A news item in Sunday's Washington Post by John Pomfret caught my eye. Subtitled, “In San Francisco and Other Big Cities, Costs Drive Out Middle-Class Families”, the article describes housing cost and exodus issues similar to those facing Bermuda.
One huge difference is that US big cities have suburbs and smaller towns where lower costs can attract and accommodate those fleeing big city expenses. Bermuda is becoming a city with no countryside and the only refuge for outpriced families may be to leave the island. This is a highly unacceptable population dynamic. The ones leaving may well be the ones we need to keep most — upwardly mobile professionals.
People … have been leaving U.S. cities because of high-priced housing for some time. But according to researchers and urban leaders, the trend has accelerated in recent years and is threatening to reshape many of the nation's major cities. Between 2000 and 2004, all eight metropolitan regions from Seattle to San Diego lost middle-class families.
On the East Coast, a similar trend is underway, with middle-class families fleeing the New York region and Boston for the South. The District has been in the buffer zone, losing middle-class families with children to the Sun Belt but gaining some from the Northeast, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Researchers, including Frey, say the skyrocketing cost of housing, … is the crucial factor.
The trend has city officials worried about what the loss of these middle-class families will do to the vitality of their communities, and they are trying to find ways to stem the flow. With median house prices in San Francisco hitting $780,000 and a similar profile in cities up and down the West Coast, the California Dream is no longer possible for most Americans, the report said.
Gavin Newsom, San Francisco's popular mayor, is eager to study such cities as Chicago and Vancouver, which have taken measures to stanch the flow. He established a council of leading San Franciscans to study the issue and is pushing city developers to include more family-friendly and affordable housing in their projects. Still, Newsom is not promising anything.
"We're going to have a housing boom in the next five years the likes of which San Francisco has not seen since the 1906 fire," he said, "and it still won't even be a drop in the bucket to what we need."
With limited space and the resultant constraints on housing construction, transport, waste disposal, noise and human congestion, what practicable options does Bermuda have?