Renters to the Rescue: An Urban Neighborhood Blooms After the Bust
After the collapse of the housing bubble and the onset of the foreclosure crisis, some feared that the 22,000 new condominium units built in downtown Miami since 2004 would remain empty for years. So it has come as something of a surprise that over the past 18 months those downtown towers have begun to fill up. And as these residential towers have come to life, the entire downtown district is similarly coming alive with new businesses, restaurants, and an increasingly vibrant street life.
But the biggest surprise is that downtown Miami’s resurgence is being led by renters, not homeowners.
“For us, it doesn’t matter whether they rent or buy,” said Miami Mayor Tomas P. Regalado. “The more people, the more business, the more safety, the more progress.”
Renters are an often-maligned segment of our “ownership society”. But urban researcher and commentator Richard Florida has predicted that the mobility associated with renting will be a key component of the nation’s geographic and economic restructuring after the great recession.
Cities with high levels of homeownership—in the range of 75%, like Detroit, St. Louis and Pittsburgh—had on average considerably lower levels of economic activity and much lower wages and incomes. Far too many people in economically distressed communities are trapped in homes they can't sell, unable to move on to new centers of opportunity.
The cities and regions with the lowest levels of homeownership—in the range of 55% to 60% like L.A., N.Y., San Francisco and Boulder—had healthier economies and higher incomes. They also had more highly skilled and professional work forces, more high-tech industry, and according to Gallup surveys, higher levels of happiness and well-being.
The result in Miami has been a quicker recovery, at least for small neighborhood-serving businesses. "Instead of falling down a precipice, it's like a bungee cored pulling Downtown businesses up," commented one downtown business owner.