By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published June 21, 2013
An interesting article in the Financial Times warns:
The great global cities - notably New York, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Paris - are unprecedentedly desirable. [...] However, there's an iron law of 21st-century life: when something is desirable, the "one percent" grabs it. The great cities are becoming elite citadels.
This corresponds with what a shopkeeper in the expensive 6/7th arrondissement of Paris told us not long ago: the life of the neighbourhood is decreasing as apartments are bought, not as primary residences, but as vacation homes by the global rich.
Paris is worried that up to 30 percent of apartments in the inner arrondissements are empty because they are either seasonal residences or simply being used as a way to park money by the global rich (and are being rented out short-term to tourists).
This is one reason Paris is trying to crack down on the thousands of apartments being rented out to tourists and temporary residents.
On the other hand, Paris is building and buying a lot of geared-to-income apartments to conform with the 2000 French law that all municipalities must have a minimum of 20 percent of all residences geared to income. The upper bound for eligibility is very high: about 100,000 euros income for a family of four, if I remember correctly.
There is also the possibility that Vancouver is trying something similar, although not as ambitious.
When we stayed in Paris for a year, I have to say that the families of the children going to our children's school were very mixed, both in terms of income and ethnic origin.
Most of the shopkeepers (e.g. bakers, corner store owners, small restaurants) still seemed to live in the neighbourhood. The 1st arrondissement, where we stayed, is one of the desirable inner arrondissements (1-8 and 16).
So the picture is not quite as bleak as it seems, but it is a worrying trend. Once again, Hamilton has a chance to avoid mistakes of other cities because we are so far behind the trend.
However, Hamilton's mayor, Bob Bratina, seems determined to squander such opportunities, like the chance to prevent a crisis of congestion through investment in the planned east-west light rail transit (LRT) B-Line.
Similarly, Bratina's affordability strategy for Hamilton seems to be to make sure that Hamilton remains cheap by keeping it dysfunctional and unattractive. Instead, he brags that Hamilton is a "20 minute city" for drivers with its wide, community-destroying one-way highways crisscrossing the lower city.
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