FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, Richard Florida argued in The Rise of the Creative Class that cities fostering brainy interaction, creativity, and innovation would thrive, since modern capitalism was increasingly knowledge-based. His projections were acclaimed by artsy, back-to-the-city types (including many church planters) and scorned by activists and the low-income residents that gentrification displaced.
The critics were on to something, because since then many big cities have indeed gotten sexier, but not necessarily more reliable, especially for the masses. From 2006 to 2014, average incomes declined by 6 percent, while average rent prices soared by 22 percent. Today, about 21 million American renters are putting 30 to 50 percent of their income toward rent, with 30 percent representing the “cost-burdened” threshold.