Saturday, February 15, 2014

D.C. planner: Affordability is cities' next big challenge

“Rock star planner” may be an oxymoron, but if there are rock star planners, Harriet Tregoning is one. Tregoning has been chief city planner in Washington, D.C., since 2007— a time of rapid growth and change in the District of Columbia. She's stepping down to run the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A looming problem in many U.S. cities is affordability, she said in an interview with Next City, but looking only at real estate prices masks the problem.  “I think the challenge for American cities for the next decade or more is indeed affordability, but it’s not just about housing,” she said. (Read the whole interview here.)

She noted that for the 8 million jobs lost in the recession, the average wage was $24 an hour. While that number of jobs has been created in recent years, their average wage was $11 an hour.

“Middle-wage jobs are declining,” she said. “Or if they’re growing, they’re growing at a much slower rate than the other categories (high-wage, and low-wage hospitality and retail jobs). So affordability needs to be broadened to talk about job creation, middle-income job creation. What are we going to do with our infrastructure to enable us to produce more employment?”

Two topics in the interview have specific resonance for Charlotte. Tregoning talked about the retrofitting of some

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Weirdest city list ever?

Mural in downtown Kings Mountain. Photo: Nancy Pierce
We all love to look at those lists of "Best Places To ... " I plead guilty as charged. But this list is one of the weirdest I've encountered. It's the blog's Best Places to Retire in North Carolina.

No. 1 is -- wait for it -- Morrisville. Really. It's only 5 miles from an international airport, so that pushed it to the top. As if that is what everyone is looking for in retirement.

The rest of the Top 10, in order: Mount Holly, Apex, Holly Springs, Kings Mountain, Mint Hill, Stallings, Harrisburg, Sanford and Matthews.

Charlotte ranks No. 30, below -- among others -- Spring Lake (a suburb of Fort Bragg), Indian Trail, Gastonia and Goldsboro.

The criteria the website used? Cost of living, total crime, total amenities, weather, distance from nearest international airport.

As one colleague of mine, who happens to be retired, quipped: "That is the weirdest list that I have ever come across.  I wouldn’t want to retire in any of them. I notice that the picture used for Harrisburg is the Speedway, which, of course, isn’t in Harrisburg."