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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The New Urban Crisis--Let’s Talk

Miami is a special place for me. It’s where I became an adult and it’s where I witnessed Miami’s evolution from being a brash and flashy youth to a cultured and refined grown-up. We now have a sophisticated art and theatre scene, restaurants that would stand up to any foodie, thriving legitimate businesses and the fastest growing rate of new entrepreneurship and start-up activity in the country for 2017. By most measurements, we are on a straight trajectory to becoming a superstar city alongside New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. But the city and the entire metropolitan area (MSA) from West Palm Beach to Miami is becoming less and a less affordable for the working class and this is not what a superstar city looks like.

Don’t take my word for it. A new research arm at Florida International University (Miami Urban Futures Initiative or MUFI) compares the Miami MSA to the 52 largest cities in the country. In fact, for the next five years, they are compiling an annual series of data driven reports that reveal just how well the Miami MSA is doing to create an economy that is inclusive, strong and innovative and which benefits everyone in the community. It’s a frank evaluation of where we are doing well and where we need to improve. Let’s see how we measure up.


Up until now, my blog posts have been photo based commentaries featuring simple urban design solutions that could be adapted to Miami’s public spaces. But in this post I highlight some of the root economic problems that are preventing Miami from excelling. I call it the good, the bad and the ugly.


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

The numbers are pretty clear. We’re gaining a competitive edge and rapidly growing our economy, but we need to include the service workers and working class in this uptick or risk creating a fragmented and dysfunctional city. Richard Florida, the thought leader at MUFI, calls this the New Urban Crisis- the old adage "the rich get richer and the poor, poorer". By example, high-end shopping centers like the one pictured above, have become ubiquitous in the Miami MSA.

Florida has ranked the largest metros in the country based on neighborhood segregation and the number of wealthy and poor neighborhoods, the income gap between rich and poor and housing affordability. The rankings measure the disparity between rich and poor and the size of the middle class. The Miami metro ranks sixth among large U.S. metros on this index—behind Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. But it’s not all bad. Let’s start with what’s working.


The Good: Population Growth

We have a lot of good things going for us. Our population is growing as are our knowledge, professional and creative workers. Metro Miami, which includes South Florida, is neck in neck with some of the heavy hitting metros in the country. As a metropolitan area, we have the eighth largest population in the country behind New York, LA, Chicago, Dallas and Houston.

We’re not growing as quickly as other cities like Austin, Orlando and Raleigh, but we are double the national average which means people are still coming in droves.


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs:

Job growth is healthy. In fact, it exceeds our population growth. This means that we have more jobs than people to fill them.