The Business of Urban Living

by Diana Drake

Lately, we’ve had cities on our mind at Wharton Global Youth (like our hometown of Philadelphia, pictured above). And we’re not alone. The growing interest in small-town living during the pandemic has underscored what many are calling “urban flight,” as people escape congested spaces in search of safer social distancing and soothing remote-work surroundings. Many city-based small businesses have also suffered. So, does this signal the end of urban life as we know it, at least in America?

Hardly, says the Wharton School’s Jessie Handbury, a professor of real estate. She recently told Wharton Business Daily radio show on SiriusXM Ch. 132: “I think it’s possible that we’ll have a short-term shift in the demographic … for a few years. But I do think this is not going to be dramatic, and it’s not going to be a reversal of the trends that have been seen over the past 10 or so years.”

Handbury is a believer in urban migration (people flocking to cities), even writing a book on the notable rise of college graduates moving to urban centers during the 2000s. And this is not just a U.S.-based phenomenon. According to the World Economic Forum, 56.2% of the global population now lives in cities, a number that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050.

Cities, it’s likely, will continue to be vital to the social and economic global landscape, as well as a key focus of post-pandemic research and recovery efforts.

The New Urban Agenda, a 2016 United Nations document that outlines ways to drive global urban development at the local level, is a vision for cities through 2030. As people consider the urban landscape and how to rebuild and strengthen city economies, a few common themes emerge. How can cities become more affordable, equitable and sustainable? We checked in with some of the latest insight guiding progress in these areas.

💵 Affordability. Housing is an important part of improving the livability of cities for everyone, especially low-income households. Susan Wachter, a Wharton professor of real estate and finance, has experienced several cycles of talk about the death and resurrection of cities. And all the while, she has believed in the power of urbanism – and long researched housing affordability.

In a recent academic paper, Wachter and her two co-authors examine Cities with Affordable Housing: Fulfilling the New Urban Agenda. They write: “Cities cannot be inclusive without affordable housing near transportation, jobs, and necessary public services like safety, health care, and education.” And yet, “Housing is expensive in good locations where there are plentiful jobs, which is made worse by an inadequate provision of developable land caused by natural factors, like water…and man-made scarcity from regulations.…Simple policy solutions of building affordable housing wherever it can be done at low cost will not be effective.”

Their research, which goes into great detail about how to achieve effective urban affordable housing, calls for stronger housing finance systems and subsidy programs that provide economic assistance for housing costs and expenses. “Housing policies and interventions are an integral part of a holistic vision of urban areas contributing to inclusion, resilience, and sustainability,” they conclude.

🌆 Equitability. Cities, teeming with life and diversity, are a nexus for issues of fairness and justice. The spotlight on strengthening urban economies has increased the conversation and effort to ensure that all groups have access to the resources and opportunities they need to improve the quality of their lives. This has become even more essential during the pandemic, when poorer communities experienced greater health, work, and economic challenges.

Mark Alan Hughes, a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design and faculty director of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, recently published Livable Cities, an Audible Original audiobook that “argues for the necessity for cities in meeting the fundamental needs of individuals and of the human community.” In October 2021, the Institute (led by co-director Susan Wachter of Wharton) brought together scholars from across Penn for a discussion on how their research relates to Hughes’s book.

The conversation included insights about equity and inclusion for all city residents. Mia Bay, a Penn professor who specializes in African-American history and recently wrote a book on the history of segregated transportation, said, “Cities…bring together strangers in close quarters and often tend to generate systems of social stratification…One of the challenges in thinking about livable cities is [that] cities continue to be, perhaps more than ever, major sites of concentrated poverty.” She went on to ask, “What is the relationship between livable cities and gentrified cities? Is gentrification [the process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the arrival of more affluent residents and businesses] something that has to bring inequality?” Dr. Bay’s research, and that of many others, is studying this question.

🏭 Environmental Sustainability. Cities are at the center of the climate crisis, which is fueled by the belief that long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns are caused by human activity, like the burning of fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the air.

Amy Montgomery, managing director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research, says, “Cities are experiencing climate effects first-hand (think heat waves and flooding), they are responsible for more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, they are home to more than 50% of the global population, and they are hubs of innovation. This suggests that cities have both the motivation and unparalleled position to address climate change locally.”

The environmental sustainability of cities is a hot topic, so much so that the 2022 Wharton Future of Cities Conference, organized by MBAs at the Wharton School, will explore what cities can do – and are doing – to deal with the growing impacts of climate change. Stay tuned for more intel from that event. Climate action of cities also topped the agenda at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in late 2021 (also known as COP26). Mauricio Rodas, a visiting scholar at the Penn Institute for Urban Research who attended COP26 and was impressed by the caliber of solutions presented by global city officials, said in a reflection: “Cities are where the battle against climate change will be defined.”

Cities are also facing increasing financial and operational pressure from the impacts of climate change, a topic of ongoing conversation and research at Wharton’s Risk Management Center. Carolyn Kousky, executive director of the Risk Center, writes, “These risks may hamper cities’ ability to continue providing essential services and may delay improvements to existing infrastructure.” She and many others are studying how climate risks are challenging the way cities do business. Check out this Risk Center Q&A with the City of Pittsburgh for a case study that explores the issues.

Read about the Top 50 Semifinalists and meet Nichole Jordan in our competition case study.

23 comments on “The Business of Urban Living

  1. I was born and raised in Washington DC until 2018 when my family relocated to Colorado. I understand urban living and know its restrictions as I lived in the heart of the city. I have friends who were still in DC when the Pandemic locked down occurred. I had access to unlimited hiking and skiing in Colorado, while all my friends were locked up in their small urban apartments. City dwelling has always had its limitation such as cost of living, size of homes, as well as safely problems. The main reason we lived in DC was because of my parents’ jobs and their short commute. However, when they had the opportunity to work online in 2018 and have more land, less expense, and safer neighborhood they jump on the opportunity. In 2018 remote work was not the norm but the exception. Fast forward to today and everyone is remote. Why would anyone want to flock to the city now? Most companies such as Tesla are also leaving the big urban cities like San Francisco for Texas. NY Stock Exchange has also threatened to leave NYC for Texas or Florida. I think our generation will look at urban living differently. Job opportunists are no longer limited to urban environments. Covid Pandemic, which after three years still does not want to end, might not be our only pandemic in our lifetime that will lead to shutdowns. Do you really want to be in a small urban living housing when you are in locked down for 3-4 months? Our generation who spends our high school years locked down in a confusing online learning environment, dealing with isolation in a scale unknown to the human species, will forever see the world through a different prism. We will not flock to urban cities as our parents did and give up land and sky for a better job.

  2. Having grown up in the widely diverse, bustling city of San Francisco, I took the same route to and from school each day. With one of the largest homeless populations in the U.S., I’d distastefully normalized the conditions of those who I’d pass by each day. As I trailed behind on goers through the heart of the city, there are few times I’ve witnessed offerings of support. In one instance, I was deeply distraught to see the Asian man’s (whom I see everyday) signs asking for support had been vandalized. Written over his pleas for assistance was “VIRUS,” and I was utterly horrified to see the reduction of his Asian identity to a sickness. As I stood across the street, I watched a woman steer her stroller away from the man and another woman walk on the outside of a nearby pillar. The same woman offered the White man (in nicer clothes, in a wheelchair) a block further uphill her spare change. Witnessing this, I was encouraged to explore this substantial example of how racial bias rooted in harmful stereotypes has infiltrated urban living. Subconsciously or not, urban living faces an equitability crisis on a much larger scale—not just between spare change, but leaving marginalized communities to struggle with an intersection of race, class, health, gender, social status, and other core identifiers. This is what oftentimes those battling issues in the field of homelessness fail to realize; that these problems are all more than interconnected. Bias and discrimination are still more prevalent than ever, even in the broadly diverse city of San Francisco. Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognize that urban equity is only achievable with acknowledgement of diversity, opportunity, and new mindsets.

    • San Francisco is the closest urban environment to where I live. Similar to what Colin said, I have seen first-hand the issues of homelessness and drug crisis fueled by disparities.

      Recently, I visited Philadelphia to tour UPenn and stopped by New York City as well. Sadly, I saw the same issues, found in San Francisco, present in these East Coast cities. Through my experiences, I have seen inequalities in major cities from coast to coast.

      The issues prevalent among our largest cities may signal a gloomy future for society, but I am hopeful of the problems being solved based on current trends. One of which is a growing societal consciousness of the decline of cities in the US. If more people are aware of the issues, there will be more individuals wanting to help fix the problems.

      Moreover, focusing on ESG (Environmental, social, and governance) at the corporate level provides an avenue to fight inequalities. Many corporations are adding ESG goals to executive compensation plans of measuring success in areas of the framework. One such part of ESG is the concept of measuring DEIBJ (Diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice). I believe that the top-down approach will help address the negative circumstances that disproportionally affect marginalized groups across the nation.

      It is also encouraging that institutions like Wharton are offering courses of study for people passionate about driving change.

      Here is a great place to start learning how Wharton is making an impact:

  3. I agree that affordability and equitability are two of the most important issues facing urban living. History tells us that mortgage redlining has led to decades of discriminatory housing policies and urban planning. And despite a ban on this practice by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, there continues to be grocery chains making decisions based on these redlined areas. The result? Disparities in the number of available supermarkets has driven urban cities toward food deserts and food swamps. Inner cities have limited access to healthy food, but they have plenty of regions flooded with fast food and junk food stores.

    These residents do not have enough money or the means to GPS their way to suburbs for cheaper fresh produce so they continue to shop at poor quality stores with limited supplies and higher prices. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 54.4 million Americans currently live in low-income areas with poor access to healthy food. Unlike Whites in wealthier neighborhoods, these residents are usually people of color who have to race several miles to the nearest supermarket pit stop. Food disparities in our cities have a cumulative effect on people’s health. Therefore, I believe that an important measure of successful urban living will be the degree of accessibility to healthy food.

  4. “Cities are the abyss of the human species,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau scrawled in the pages of his 1762 Treatise on Education, Emile. Though Rousseau believed existence within nature to be most beneficial in advancing peoples’ full potential, humanity chose the path of technological progress and established cities as the centers of civilization. However, even though cities have since benefited humanity in ways unimaginable to 18th-century philosophers, the gradual progression of urban development has created problems that modern society cannot ignore. Most notably, the three major issues listed in the article: affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability. Although, I believe that these three issues can be addressed by improvements in public transportation infrastructure.

    It’s no secret that the average cost of living has increased for cities, not only in the U.S. but around the world. Top U.S. cities, including Chicago, Tucson, and San Antonio, have experienced increases in average cost of living up to 7% from just 2019 to 2021. 180 international cities are above the global benchmark of city cost of living by anywhere from 1% to 175%. The requirement of thousands of extra dollars for comfortable living in urban centers is devastating to countless around the world who are already struggling to make ends meet. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly has not lessened the load on urban civilians. The effects of the virus have been broadcast continuously since 2020 and at this point unprecedented times, supply chain disruptions, and economic fallout have all become borderline buzz-phrases. Statistics such as twenty million households not having enough food to eat, and ten million households being behind on rent surface are shocking and infuriating… but just for a few weeks, and then the public focus shifts to the next major news event. When counting people on the magnitude of millions, emotions and empathy are paralyzed by analysis. Families and individuals living in cities particularly suffered from the pandemic due to the high density of urban centers causing increased infection rates, inflated rent, and increased prices for commodities on top of already high costs. Furthermore, because of sanctions placed on Russia due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, gas and energy across North America and Europe have skyrocketed in recent months. The U.S. Department of Labor Consumer Price Index reports that from May 2021 to May 2022, urban consumers spent on average 34.6% more on energy as a whole, and a staggering 49.1% more on motor fuel. Headlines and the internet mocking the absurdity of gas prices climbing upwards of ten dollars per gallon are cathartic, but again, countless people, beyond the Ukrainian victims, are suffering. The ethics of forcing those who live in cities without efficient public transportation systems to commute by car have been heavily questioned, especially considering the average rate of salary increase is not even half the rate of inflation in the U.S.

    Dr. Susan Wachter and her two co-authors discuss in their research paper how adequate transportation is a factor in creating a more inclusive urban society. This is a sentiment that I strongly agree with. I currently live in Houston, Texas, 6th largest city in North America in terms of population and extremely spread out geographically. A common joke around here is that it takes 45 minutes just to drive to the grocery store. As with almost every major American city, the public transportation system in Houston is deficient to nonexistent, except for the small, centralized area of downtown. We are home to the Katy Freeway, which is now the widest highway on Earth after a 2.2 billion dollar expansion project widened the freeway to 26 lanes (even though commute times along the highway actually increased 30% after the expansion). Car dependency is not limited to just the major highways; regular streets and roads accommodate an overabundance of cars whilst not leaving enough room for sidewalks not to mention bike lanes, making pedestrian travel extremely dangerous. Designing a city that actively excludes its impoverished, non-car-owning citizens is criminal. While I may reside in Houston now, I was born in China and lived between the cities of Shanghai and Qingdao, both massive urban areas with populations in the 10 digits. Since before I was born Shanghai has had well organized public transportation with the metro system connecting bus stops and subway stations in a tight network around the metropolis. In recent years, Qingdao has adopted a similar system, dramatically optimizing travel for commuters. In both cities pedestrian infrastructure is not only affordable because of scale, but is also very safe because of proper management and maintenance by the local governments. In fact, special provisions are in place specifically to boost protection for women, a gesture even more typical in cities such as Tokyo where women-only trains are in use as response to the notoriously high sexual assault statistics. A key goal outlined in the New Urban Agenda is to create a fulfilling and empowering environment for women by increasing accessibility to safe public transportation. Giving fifty percent of the population adequate transportation security should not just be a goal, but a non-negotiable, with positive ramifications that will benefit both women and future generations of the world.

    Cities have been the foundations of humanity’s greatest innovations, yet while urban populations continue to climb, people are growing distant from each other. The issues of urban affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability are all fragile and need to be handled with specific nuance, but I think that currently the most attainable way to uphold the future of cities is to focus on public transportation systems. Transportation infrastructure is logistically cheaper than purchasing individual vehicles and motor fuel. Independence from oil also ensures that global events do not cause major disruptions to the majority’s transportation. Reducing transportation prices gives power back to the less fortunate who will be able to participate more effectively in society. Giving women in not only developing nations but all nations safer transportation will enable them to live more engaging lives and contribute even greater. According to Amy Montgomery in the article, cities are responsible for more than 70% of greenhouse emissions, however, cities are also in a position to engineer solutions to climate change. Reducing cars would not only directly reduce urban carbon footprint, but would also sustain cities in the future to address global warming. In the U.S., major cities can hope to increase focus on transportation infrastructure by diverting the budget originally reserved for automotive projects to expanding metro systems. For developing cities, it is important to start on the right path and place emphasis on constructing public transportation from the beginning. Progress in urban mobility will create a future of well connected cities and allow billions around the world to contribute more to society.


    The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) May 2022

    • Thanks for sharing your honest opinion Jiyani! Your introductory claim raises a serious question for many of us living in an urban environment, asking how cities have not only benefited humanity but also created social problems that we can no longer ignore. Also, your supporting statistics about the escalating average cost of living and the thorough breakdown of the consumer price index report provide an insight into how people living in the cities are suffering from an increase in gas and housing prices… You even propose a solution of your own to fix the three major issues listed in the article (affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability), which is to improve the public transportation infrastructure and promote the living standards of the people living in urban cities.

      Though I appreciate your feedback and your plausible solution, I do have a few disagreements on improving public transportation infrastructure, specifically the subway, to combat the three issues of urban living addressed in the article. I believe that your solution can be truly effective for all three issues proposed in the article, only if the necessary conditions are met. Simply put, your solution could enable people to spend less on costs related to transportation such as the money spent on refueling their automobiles, and reduce the use of cars, which will lessen the emission of exhaust gasses. These changes could possibly ameliorate the living conditions of the people in urban cities as they may fix the previous three societal issues; however as I mentioned earlier, these changes can be truly followed, if the improved subways are convenient and extended well enough to replace cars. However, there are specific regulations and geographical limitations in different cities in America that make it almost impossible for the citizens to only use the subway as their means of transportation.

      First of all, the use of any public transportations such as the metro or the city buses during the pandemic could be extremely dangerous. Especially, as there are no restrictions that necessitate people to wear masks anymore, people are highly exposed to the risk of transmitting the virus to each other in a closed environment. So if we were to promote greater use of public transportation, people should strictly wear masks for their safety, which is extremely hard to implement looking at the past resistance amongst the people. Moreover, the newly updated economic statistics show that the increase in average living costs due to global inflation has peaked.In your comment, you support your argument with the May 2022 CPI data, which showed how the rise in massive amounts of energy and fuels caused the inflation. However, the more recent June CPI data and its analysis shows that the price of the many necessities (especially the gas price) has peaked and it will persistently decrease from now on. . So, developing and improving the transportation system now will only be anachronistic as the cost of living will decline to its ordinary level in the near future, and the government budget spent to solve a problem that has already been naturally solved.
      Furthermore, unlike the subway systems of major cities of other countries such as China, Korea, and Europe, the subway transportation system in America is known for its poor quality. According to ABC News, “the average crime rate in subway stations is annually increasing in the United States,” in which it has gone up to 58 % in 2021, including multiple murders cases inside subway stations. Even if we disregard the issues related to the increasing crime rate in subway stations, the overall subway system in the United States is notorious for its low ridership, limited service hours, and inefficient wait time in between the train arrival.

      Lastly, except a few major cities like New York City, replacing metro as a primary means of transportation for most of the citizen will not be efficient for most cities in the United States The United States, being one of the biggest country in the world, is known for its unique living culture in which most people live in a detached house, not an apartment, and these houses are scattered far apart. This makes it highly inefficient for people to use the subway as it will require them a lot of travel time to go to the station unless the stations are built all around the city.. If the cities in the States were similar to Seoul, South Korea, the metros would be efficient as Seoul is a densely populated city, where most people can walk to the widely dispersed stations within a time frame of a minimum of five minutes to a maximum thirty minute. However, considering how big America is and how many cities are sparsely populated,where people live in isolated areas, just improving metro stations will not be an cost-efficient or practical solution to reduce the three societal problems that have been mentioned above. In conclusion, your solution of reducing the usage of private transportation by promoting public transportation could only work if the conditions discussed above could be fulfilled.

      In my opinion, to truly promote the livelihood of the people living in the urban society, what we really need to focus on is reducing the implicit hatred and discrimination. I still remember watching the news of GuiYing Ma, a 62 years old 2nd Generation Asian American woman, being attacked with a rock in the New York subway last year, November. It didn’t take that long for me to hear another news that she finally passed away after spending 10 weeks in a coma, being the fourth Asian American being killed in New York City in just two months. At the turn of the century, such vitriol and overt racism appeared to be existing right next to us. People must wake up and realize that we are now living in cities where hatred is commonplace. According to the data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the anti Asian hate crime has gone up by 339% nationally last year, portraying that people act on that hatred by inflicting pain on one another. In the end, it is these implicit hate and biases embedded in our society that makes fears of living in the city to be normal and division amongst each other to be ever present. Therefore I personally believe that eradicating the implicit bias and discrimination against margin alized populations is a goal that we as a citizens around the globe should work onto promote living conditions of the cities in the United States..

  5. Wow, this article did a wonderful job pointing out the critical factors that must be considered during urban development. I completely agree with Hughes’ statement that it is necessary for cities to meet the needs of all individuals and communities for equitability. I believe that if cities want to meet the needs of everyone, then they’ll need to go beyond providing the proper funding; individuals living in the cities must also have unbiased mindsets. In extremely populated cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, many people there hold a wide range of beliefs. However, certain views can cause a great deal of harm, prohibiting others from receiving experiences and opportunities that they rightfully deserve.

    Born and raised in what is considered the cultural and financial capital of the country, New York City, I have experienced and felt what many other Asian-Americans have while living in the city. Anti-Asian hate crimes have long been a prevalent issue in New York City, however, these crime rates have skyrocketed ever since COVID-19 hit in early 2020. I often opened up news sites on my phone to check for updates on the pandemic, just for my eyes to see something else every time. “Asian Women Pushed to Death in NYC Subway,” “Man Attacks 7 Asian Women in 2 Hours,” “Asian Man Head Stomped in NYC.” These titles were along the lines of many other articles reported in my city. Reading the details of these incidents was extremely chilling and made me anxious about what could happen to me. As someone who relies on the subway as their main commute to school, I find myself being highly alert every time I’m walking to and through subway platforms. My mom repeats the same two words every morning: “be careful.” It shocks me every day that I and others like me have to be scared in a place where we have lived for years. What was supposed to be our home has now turned into a dangerous place full of crimes.

    Discrimination in cities goes beyond hate crimes. Today, unemployment rates in New York City are much higher than in other areas and in previous years. A mind-boggling, yet unsurprising, part of the reason behind this issue is the presence of bias. Communities beyond Asian-Americans also face similar issues of bias in their everyday lives, which include job and apartment hunting. As the article said, “Cities…are a nexus for issues of fairness and justice.” Each individual’s actions and beliefs are a cause of and/or caused by another’s actions and beliefs.

    In order to truly have equity in cities, efforts must be made by everyone to educate both themselves and others on what is right and what is wrong. Local governments should utilize their resources to educate the youth on racial justice and empower the next generation to speak up for what they believe in. The diversity present in cities is what makes them so rich in culture, and it is critical to preserve these factors and allow them to flourish. Taking a step towards a nexus of equity today is developing a better urban center for tomorrow. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”

    • While reading Diana Drake’s piece, many of the thoughts swirling through my mind were articulated right in your comment. Wonderful and thought-provoking comment Jessica!

      Like you, I am also an Asian American born and raised in New York City, and especially resonated with your sentiments over the rise in hate crimes and violence against the AAPI community during the pandemic. It was utterly heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to read the headlines of violence being committed to individuals in the AAPI community, and to see these instances popping up on my social media feeds nearly every few days. While remote learning afforded me the fortunate opportunity to stay home for school, I constantly worried for my parents who had to commute to Manhattan for work everyday and my grandma who lives in Manhattan. Pandemic related hate crimes against the AAPI community has resulted in many feeling unsafe and vulnerable when they are out in public. Even as the city began to open up last summer, this feeling of fear has not dissipated.

      You and Diana Drake both touched on the importance of equitability when it comes to urban cities. I couldn’t agree more that the policymakers must address the rich diversity that fills their cities with proper care and attention to ensure that their needs are being heard and met, and that they aren’t thrown under the bus. However, it wasn’t until the pandemic that the issue of violence and racism towards Asian Americans were heard. People are acting like the pandemic-related violence is the first time Asian Americans have experienced hate crimes. It completely erases the decades of discrimination and injustice felt by this community and disregards the Asian American experience. America’s anti-Asian problem isn’t something that surfaced amidst the pandemic, but goes back to the 19th century when the first Chinese labor migrants came to the United States, and since then, have been the target of bigotry. In 2017, a 60-year-old Chinese American man was playing Pokemon Go in his car and was shot and killed by a security guard in Virginia. I have to admit, it was difficult to find much coverage regarding hate crimes against Asian American that aren’t pandemic related, which unfortunately means that these stories don’t show up in national data because Asian Americans under-report hate crime incidents. Consequently, because of their silence, it makes them an even more appealing target for hate crimes.

      Jessica, I couldn’t emphasize your point of making the strides to educate ourselves and others more. If we want to progress as a city and a society, we must push for diverse enrollment, integrated classrooms, and school curriculum that matches the diversity of our cities.
      Teaching the histories of Asian Americans, alongside those of African Americans, Latino Americans, and Native Americans isn’t just about teaching a more inclusive view of history, but it can also empower students of diverse backgrounds as well. This type of curriculum stresses to students of all backgrounds that their city recognizes that their history and their identities matter. A more diverse curriculum will not only help educate the general public and our policymakers about those who helped shape the history of America, but also guide us to a more equitable and just future.

  6. The unwritten rule of New York City is that to have the opportunities that it offers you, you need to already be successful.
    My older sister is the first person in my family to buy an apartment in the heart of New York City. My family’s not one for expressing emotions but we were all extremely proud of her. My parents were immigrants from China who arrived on this continent with only $500 in their pockets. They’ve worked for upwards of 25 years in this country to get me and my sister where we are. This new apartment is a major step in my sister’s life but an even bigger one for the family.
    My family has been living in Queens, the lesser-known and more isolated part of NYC. For the past four years, I’ve been going to school an hour and a half away from home and before that, for six years, my sister did too. I wish that I could walk to school with my peers but that’s just not feasible for my family and our income.
    Before buying her apartment, my sister had been renting an apartment with three other people. Only after working as a financial analyst in one of the world’s largest investment companies for years was she able to buy her upscale apartment: a studio apartment with a broken stove top, a moldy fridge, and a leaking bathtub.
    The article raises three important considerations of living in urban areas: affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability. While these three things are all indicative of the business in urban areas, I find that equitability is not only the most important, but also a representation of the other two.
    In terms of affordability, New York City might be the best example of extremely high prices. If my sister, an Ivy graduate who makes a six-figure salary, can only afford to buy an apartment that hasn’t been renovated since it was built in 1963, how are people in less fortunate situations supposed to afford to live in cities? New York City, home of Wall Street, is also an amazing example of opportunities for financial success and as the article describes “a hub of innovation”. But to have a chance to take up opportunities that New York offers you, you have to have the money to live there. This prerequisite is paradoxical and only widens the wealth gap. Cities become more and more inaccessible, and talented, hardworking people stay where they are while the wealthier just get wealthier.
    Environmental sustainability is similarly isolating to low-income people. Starting with rising temperatures — never mind the more and more frequent natural disasters — having preparations for them is exceptionally difficult. During my sister’s search for an apartment, less than one out of six apartments had a split air conditioner and from the ones that didn’t, almost none came with window unit cooling. Then comes the long-term costs of the health detriments of urban pollution. The article makes the argument that cities are places where green energy can develop, but the truth is, the most common kinds of green energy, such as wind and solar, are very difficult and expensive to install and even more so in cities. Requiring people to use green energy would further separate the wealthy. While going green is important, we have to be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t exclude the poor.
    So how does equitability realistically work out? The answer is it doesn’t. NYC is supposed to welcome everyone and bring opportunities for success. But if only people who have money can live there, and thus, only they can reap the benefits of the Big Apple, what’s left for the less wealthy?

  7. Abundant opportunities, constant excitement, and diverse communities are all reasons why 83% of the US population have flocked to cities. However, as stated in the article, there seems to be a recent trend of “urban flight” prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as it’s easier to practice social distancing away from the bustle of the city and to find peace in your remote-work environment when enveloped in nature. You mention the underlying impetus behind this flight can effectively be explained by a failure to fulfill the three main aspects of the New Urban Agenda: affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability. I would like to hone in on this last aspect, environmental sustainability, as well as the issue of health – physical and mental – as a closely related issue, and what can be done in these areas to make cities more attractive habitats in the long term.

    As I read the article, an idea for urban revitalization came to mind – greenery in urban areas. Namely, in the agricultural context of vertical farming and the visual yet practical context of hanging gardens. I’ve thought a lot about the practicality of adding green spaces to cities ever since creating a plan for vertical farming in my hometown of Hong Kong for a school project. Growing up in Hong Kong, I saw the high prices of organic produce, experienced the heightened stress of living in a densely populated community, and felt the chokehold of the city’s air pollution. Wouldn’t vertical farming and hanging gardens be a wonderful way of addressing these problems? Of course, this isn’t to say that flora would be a silver bullet for urban sustainability and health, rather that it might be a step in the right direction. Let me explain my thinking.

    In Hong Kong and many other densely-populated cities, there is a lack of arable land, leading to the majority of the produce being imported. Imported produce often loses its freshness by the time it arrives at the retailer, and constant pollution further reduces its quality. Family and friends living in Hong Kong at the moment have recounted how the lack of quality produce has been exacerbated by the panicked tendency of people to stockpile resources during lockdown; the already high prices rose and availability decreased. If we introduce vertical farming projects in the city, we can circumvent the lack of arable land and overcome other issues such as unpredictable weather patterns, water scarcity, and the relatively carbon-intensive nature of traditional farming methods. Stacked plantations can easily be implemented into existing buildings and infrastructure and could offer a neat solution for improving national food security and the quality of agricultural output.

    Another aspect to be considered is hanging gardens. Studies have shown how living in cities can worsen mental health, but greenery can help improve that! In the past, various hanging gardens have made a name for themselves. For example, the visual beauty of the hanging gardens of Milan’s Bosco Verticale cannot be denied – with its injection into the body of the city, it becomes a new epicenter of life and discussion. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and with Babylonian texts and more recent artistic impressions, one can only begin to imagine the ripples of rapture they caused at the time. Not only does greenery help improve the city visually, it also comes with practical benefits. Cities are certainly “at the center of the climate crisis”, and vertical gardens can help address this by acting as carbon sinks, cleaning the air to become kinder to people’s respiratory health and to contribute to the global efforts against climate change.

    But, a cautionary tale! The Qiyi City Forest Garden was Chengdu’s attempt at just that, but all those benefits were inundated by the swarm of mosquitoes that came along with it. That is to say, we
    must be conscientious in our balancing of the harmony between nature and urban life.

  8. I was driving down Sunset with my sister when she shrieked in horror at a sign a couple feet away: “7 dollars?? 7 dollars???” Yes, it finally happened– the gas had reached a whopping 7.49, and when I googled other counties, the number just kept climbing. As a resident of Los Angeles, California, I’ve seen first hand the struggles of urban living.
    Diana Drake’s article captures three essential facets to living in America: affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability, all of which are equally important. Her article highlights how Americans must grapple and take responsibility for some of the damagingdevelopments within cities, yet there’s also some nuance to how these three subjects intertwine, particularly in context of transportation. High gas prices have prompted several of my friends to purchase electric vehicles and or rely on public transportation only.
    Yet as prices rise overall, the impacts of housing disproportionately impact minority groups who have faced generational barriers to affordable housing. The topic of housing in America touches upon all three topics mentioned in the article above (affordability, equitability, and sustainability) and has a deep history, one that is rooted in generations of discrimination. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, author Gene Slater reveals how racial covenants perpetuate segregation and discrimination within communities as supposedly “progressive” as Los Angeles. While “A Raisin in The Sun” explicitly reflects the racism faced by minority groups in the 60s, Slater identifies how modern day housing, despite reforms such as the Fair Housing Act in 1968, holds the same impact on African American communities. In fact, Slater’s piece depicts a critical element that individuals face in the battle for affordable housing: a lack of freedom.
    Interestingly enough, although Amy Montgomery highlights how urban cities generate more than 70% of the greenhouse gasses released and simultaneously experiences some repercussions, the first waves of environmental damage often hit individuals right outside these bustling cities, individuals who have been prevented from accessing the vibrance of urban life. We can look to Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby in which the Valley of Ashes, which surrounds the brightly-lit city, absorbs all the negative effects of the factory smoke and busy cars. When it comes to addressing the three topics of affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability, while all Americans must now address at least one of the three, we can not forget that certain groups have been fighting for centuries to seize opportunities to build their lives and careers in ideal “innovation hubs” (as Montgomery puts it).
    The greatest opportunity for social mobility and empowerment comes from the freedom to choose the quality of life that people can have by selecting the conditions of their own homes. Just as Dr. Wachter’s academic paper calls out the lack of accountability on governments to improve housing, by emphasizing our efforts and roles of the government as Dr. Wachter highlights, the lives of millions of individuals will exponentially improve, meaning that they can contribute back to society and the economy in more ways than one, demonstrating how investment in the people– all the people– is an investment in the nation.

  9. Despite the ever changing environments I have lived in my short life, large bustling cities have always been a constant. I have lived in LA, Shanghai, and NYC. I enjoy living in cities as they provide me opportunities that allowed me to further my world view and education much more than if I had lived in only small towns. However, city life is not without its downfalls.

    Housing has been becoming increasingly unaffordable, especially in cities. A 3 bedroom condo in New York, that costed $300,000 in 2008, today in 2022 is on the market for almost a million. In NYC, the average price to rent a studio apartment is almost $4000, and most landlords requires the renter to have an income 3 times the price of rent every month. It makes living in the city incredibly difficult, as the median household income in NYC is only $67000 a year.

    Public transportation in most major American cities is also lacking, often untimely, and only servicing the downtown and major populated areas, hardly ever going into the suburbs. This forces more people to use cars on a daily basis causing pollution and traffic to plague our urban sceneries. In NYC the MTA fee has also increased dramatically in the last 10 years, going from $2.25 when I first took the train to Manhattan to $2.75 in 2022. This makes transportation much harder for lower income earners who rely on public transportation the most.

  10. Upon finishing the last line of this article, I gave my head a violent shake, trying to stifle the uneasy feelings arising from the back of my mind. Earlier this year, from March to June, I—along with more than 25 million residents—experienced what could’ve possibly been one of the most hardcore COVID-19 lockdowns ever in Shanghai, China. Known for its large working class, the city has never been involved in any large-scaled complaint directed toward the entire municipality. However, this time, even those who usually take pride in their country were fueled with discontent as the pandemic revealed great disparities that have been oppressed and silenced for decades. I witnessed how incredibly fragile a city could be in a time of stress when it’s not built on the foundations of equitability, and just how rapidly the ugliness could all surface when inequalities aren’t being actively reduced or even considered. My family was relatively fortunate, but social media exposed the dread that was clutching at everyone’s throats and how devastating this situation had really been.

    It was mid-March when we first received the notice for distance learning. My friends and I were ecstatic at first, thinking that it would be somewhat like a “two-week break” at most; little did we know, Shanghai went into lockdown just a week after that. The gates to our apartment complexes were locked and barred, and no-one was allowed outside their compound. Money, in the blink of an eye, lost its value when it could no longer get you necessities, no matter how wealthy you were. It couldn’t ensure the comfort and wellbeing of people in quarantine, so everyone panicked. How was anything affordable at all now?

    Attempting to solve this, some compounds hosted “group purchases,” where everyone ordered rations together, since individual shopping was banned. When I went downstairs to get our cartons of milk, I saw my neighbors carry a box that was bigger than the size of their bodies. Inside contained a mixture of vegetables and a whole tray of eggs. A few days later, much of the same batch of food was thrown outside near the shared trash bin, rotting and attracting flies. No, the problem of unaffordability wasn’t resolved; it had even intensified in a way. Those who weren’t able to buy as a group likely had nothing left to eat. The price of food was climbing, and while some bought too much, the rest still couldn’t get their hands on any. For a large part of Shanghai’s population, necessities weren’t affordable.

    This ultimately leads to questions of equitability. Where’s the talk of delivery workers sleeping in their trucks on highways for more than two months while CEOs continued living in their mansions? How about small to medium business employees, like waitresses or hairdressers? With everyone shut in at home and the streets empty, what would to happen after quarantine, after months with zero income? The ones who came to the city to make a living—how about their families back home? Every day, these furious questions trampled over the internet, desperate for an answer. Meanwhile, the government’s silence dragged on. Only major companies with international connections were “permitted” to survive in this catastrophe, and even my father, who worked for one of them, had to leave home for two months and reside in a hotel because rules didn’t allow him to return before this wave of the pandemic was over. While he was there, he told us that he didn’t even see daylight a lot of time, since there weren’t windows in his room.

    Foreign residents were struggling desperately as well. In May, there was a joke spreading online where when the Chinese message in a compound’s group chat—largely used for announcements of COVID tests—was translated appeared to say “Go kill yourself, quick.” What the message really meant in Mandarin was, “Disinfect yourself when you get home.” This was funny to a lot of people and got millions of reposts, but I felt uncomfortable as the joke reflected on what some people had to experience daily. Those who didn’t understand Chinese had to translate everything in the group chats, and not only would that be exhausting, it would also cause myriads of confusion. Would this distress leave psychological scars?

    Moreover, those who had terminal illnesses were also neglected. Cancer patients weren’t allowed to receive treatment in hospitals that were bustling with COVID patients, and many were left at home only to unfortunately pass away. Where’s the justice in this situation? Was it the pandemic that brought to light the contrast between rich and poor, foreign and local, sick and healthy—or was this going to inevitably happen in some time anyway? Did COVID act as a catalyst for Shanghai, or any other city’s downfall?

    All in all, cities are great places to live in, but these issues shouldn’t be brushed past. This surge of COVID-19 is over here in Shanghai, but the battle for equality still lies ahead. It would take decades to make headway; nonetheless, if this is never set as a goal, cities will only ever be a difficult place to make a living for many. When Shanghai lifted its restrictions on quarantine, many were reported camping at the train station or airport to get out as soon as possible. Did this push people over the edge? Is this simply a short term “urban flight”? Or are they going for good this time? Cities must focus on equality in the good times so that when cities are put under stress, its residents can have an equal chance to cope well–and when the hard times pass, thrive in the place that they live.

    • Unlike Ruosia, I wrote this comment with a deep sense of powerlessness to make a difference to social inequities and social policies.
      As a resident outside Shanghai, I also followed the news in Shanghai earlier this year, from March to June. When I woke up every morning, half of the newly COVID-19 positive cases on my phone in China were from Shanghai. On the Internet, I often saw pictures posted by residents of the few remaining food in their homes. There were also optimistic bloggers who shared videos of themselves growing garlic or being quarantined in groups.
      Every time after reading these I can’t help but go to the nearby supermarket to buy some fast food.
      In addition to the inequity that Ruosia mentioned, I’d like to talk about Shanghai’s urban policies during this pandemic.
      What impressed me most was that in April, a little girl under three years old was COVID-19 positive, while her mother was not. According to the epidemic policy at the time, the girl had to be quarantined immediately. But she’s only two years old. As a two-year-old, how dependent she must be on her mother! Despite the appeal, dissatisfaction and even blame from citizens, and the mother’s concern when she was separated from her daughter, the medical staff took the girl and her mother to two separate isolation sites. The isolation lasted for several weeks.
      In addition to failing to consider young children, Shanghai’s policies also neglected the care of women during the pandemic. A lady came back to Shanghai from other places and needed to go to the hotel for quarantine. She had her period before the quarantine and, with her pants already stained, she asked for sanitary napkins. But the response was “fastidious” with impatient. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the news. I couldn’t imagine this could happen in Shanghai in 2022.
      There is nothing wrong with these policies, and the city’s policy is only stricter in the face of severe circumstances. Without these policies, Shanghai would not have recovered from the epidemic. However, no policy is comprehensive, a lot of abuses will be exposed during implementation. In the face of these abuses, avoidance will only cause more people’s dissatisfaction and anger, and the government should pay more attention to the vulnerable groups. In my opinion, social welfare is just like education fairness. Policy is only one aspect, and more importantly, it is the consciousness of the government and the people. Only when the people and the government have the same goal, we can realize the so-called welfare.

  11. On a sunny day in June, I was born in the heart of the entire west coast–Los Angeles, California. The home of problematic influencers and celebrities, East Coasters escaping the brutal cold and torturous humidity, and generations of hardworking and determined immigrants.

    Stereotypes of Los Angeles, ones of kale smoothies, goat yoga, and daily run-ins with Leonardo DiCaprio have never been true for me, nor most of Los Angeles’ population. Living the life of a posh Angeleno comes with a heavy price tag. As social media stars continue to post their $16 Erewhon smoothies, the image of Los Angeles as this perfect heaven for all citizens is perpetuated.

    While I cannot necessarily live the life of a Beverly Hills teenager, I can dream. In the moments between classes, at lunch, and before I go to sleep, I spend my precious minutes on Zillow, an online real estate marketplace. There, I spend hours and hours gawking at architectural disasters and admiring dazzling mansions while ignoring their steep price points.

    Although hefty listing prices had become a normality, the recent increases in pricing caught my eye. Houses that should have cost a mere $5,000,000 had their numbers ticking upward daily. No longer could I find a Malibu villa for under $10,000,000. I was not the only one who noticed this change as the large increase in property values gained significant nation-wide interest.

    CNN Business reported, “Prices rose 19.8% year-over-year in February, an even higher rate than the 19.2% growth seen in January, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller US National Home Price Index.” Notable media outlets such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and more began to run more and more stories on this striking surge.

    Through my hobby of online house shopping, I was able to firsthand watch Los Angeles become more unaffordable than ever. Although Los Angeles’ population has not seen a significant decline, it is the ones who are already struggling who will further suffer. As Diana Drake emphasizes in her article, cities become unlivable for lower-income groups if there is no affordable housing. Without affordability within the housing market, citizens will not be able to sustain their lives in urban settings.

    Despite Los Angeles’ population staying relatively constant over many years, lower income people are being forced out as the wealthy move in. Until Los Angeles, or any other major city, decides to actually tackle affordable housing, people will be forced to leave. As urban life in the States continues to develop, more and more communities are going to be displaced unless the issue is adequately addressed. Drake’s article mentions cities’ newfound focus on equitability. Acknowledgement of the ongoing problems regarding affordability is not enough, but if action comes from this new acknowledgement, citizens struggling with housing prices may find some relief.

    I truly hope by the time I am ready to purchase my own home, the prices won’t make me think that I am a teenager back on Zillow looking at unrealistic dream houses. My generation and older ones deserve to live in affordable cities.

  12. This spring, my economics class took a trip to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York with the goal of observing and analyzing equitable use of the park, especially focus on the Lower-Middle Income (LMI) group. We learned that the park is surrounded by unique neighborhoods varying in socioeconomic status and ethnicity. And after two years in a pandemic and a crowded city, everyone needs green space to relax, stroll, and exercise. I observed lush green grass and families and couples picnicking, but this was not the case in all corners of the park. Some areas boasted poorly maintained lawns, hilly terrain, or wooded areas and lakes that hindered access to open space.

    Reading Diana Drake’s article about how cities become more “livable” allowed me to connect some of my observations from Prospect Park to these larger ideas. As Mia Bay states in the article, “Cities…bring together strangers in close quarters and often tend to generate systems of social stratification”. I find it especially interesting when Bay discusses gentrification in cities, as I saw firsthand how “strangers in close quarters” can have such different experiences. The idea of gentrification is extremely important for cities to consider as it leads to other issues of affordability and sustainability that the article discusses. When a certain demographic is pushed out, urban migration becomes increasingly unaccessible and unattainable, contributing to a self-reinforcing cycle. And it is also important to recognize that gentrification not only applies to housing or living prices, but also access to public resources like parks.

    If urban life is going to become more sought after in future years, as Drake notes that 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities in 2050, we must ensure that governments and businesses play a role in achieving equitable quality access. In the example of Prospect Park, the park association should be asking how it can improve its programming & amenities for the targeted LMI group while preventing higher income groups to “take over and claim the space as theirs”. In working towards equitability, it is most important to understand and cater towards the needs of the targeted group. We can only move forward with economic development and social progress once we establish affordable and equitable opportunities for all.

    • What I really enjoyed about this response is it reflects on environmental issues presented in cities while also connecting it to a broader economic discussion of moving “forward with economic development and social progress once we establish affordable and equitable opportunities for all.” Your comment has made a significant impact on the continual views I have regarding my own city: New York. As someone who lives in New York and is in close quarters to prospect park- a place I constantly visit and enjoy with friends and family- I haven’t even thought to consider the important points you made about the park’s lack of environmental sustainment and its connection to gentrification in the surrounding areas. Growing up in a city environment, more specifically New York, I have received first-hand accounts of the economic struggles of living in the so-called “hopeful” city.
      The points made in this article regarding urban living and its ongoing economic battle of combating affordability, equitability, and environmental sustainability can easily be connected to New York. Living costs are increasing (at times like these, I am grateful I am not an adult in New York), finding employment and opportunities are getting harder, and I could go on and on about the sanitation issues New York has faced recently! Although these statements are valid, living in New York has helped me develop a strong feeling of independence and accountability that I would not have learned anywhere else. Despite the current economic challenges New York has endured, exploring the commercial and economic world has given me ideas on how, as a teenager living here, I can have a greater effect.
      I valued business because it gave me the skills I needed to develop as a leader and apply what I learned to improve my community, especially in my own city. As I began to delve into economic studies, such as the course one on financial markets I was able to take at Wharton, I was able to see how the economy was affected by worldly events like Covid-19 in my city. I began to ponder on the way New York could economically move forward and what we can contribute as citizens, to produce positive change.
      As this article mentions, cities “will continue to be vital to the social and economic global landscape, as well as a key focus of post-pandemic research and recovery efforts,” therefore, citizens should concentrate on measures to improve these cities’ economies, especially for the next generation of metropolitan city dwellers. To return to your original point I definitely concur with you, Darinah, that the Lower-Middle Class has a significant impact on urban living, and I believe your conclusion, “We can only move forward with economic development and social progress once we establish affordable and equitable opportunities for all.” sums it up best. As an adolescent, I believe it’s critical to understand all of the economic difficulties that our world presents, particularly for those of us who live in urban areas. It is crucial to move forward with the creation of an economically thriving city by anticipating any problems, no matter how tiny, such as the one you described regarding Prospect Park.

  13. Cities have been on my mind too recently! Well, a more accurate way of stating that would be ‘cities have been the focal point of my life.’ As someone who was born and lived my whole life in New York City, I can say with pride that I’m most definitely a city-girl at heart.

    As a fellow city-girl, I’ve found many niche stores, restaurants and little parks that are so familiar that they’ve become second homes. Of course, due to the sheer expanse of NYC, I cannot say that I’ve surveyed all of its different subway stations, but I’d like to say that I’ve become an expert at the little part of my city that I call home. Whether it was getting soup dumplings in East Village or spending afternoons at the American Museum of Natural History, I found comfort in the familiarity of my city and its bustling streets. However, in March of 2020, everything around me slowed down to an uncharacteristic halt: Grand Central Station, which typically hosted over 750,000 travelers per day, was completely devoid of human life. Instead, it seemed as though the only commuters in NYC were moving trucks headed strictly out, in an example of “urban flight” as Diana mentioned. In my opinion, the cause was that cities had simply become too unaffordable.

    For me, this realization first began with a sign. Both in the metaphorical and literal sense! A simple black sign was taped on the door of my favorite hand-pulled noodle restaurant, elegant white writing bluntly staring at me: “We’re closing at the end of October. Thank you for supporting us.” As Professor Watcher mentioned, the affordability of a city is essential for its success, as it allows communities to build up jobs and circulate money within the community. However, now I see dark stores in my neighborhood’s commercial district, which used to be filled with customers eagerly waiting for Jewish pastries and Colombian cuisine, whilst across the street from said store I see new chain stores expanding their commercial conglomerates to my town .

    Diana touches upon the fears of urban flight, but in addition to that, I am even more worried about the loss of small businesses. The sheer unattainability of commercial real estate contributes significantly to urban flight as the cost of rent for local small businesses skyrockets, leaving many searching for less expensive locations. As such, the heart of New York, the food that oozes love, care and most importantly, gives a feeling of home, is being taken away before my very eyes. This, in my opinion, is the gentrification of my city. The local businesses around me embody the various cultures within my city, and provide opportunities for individuals of all groups and backgrounds to generate wealth and create the communities which are so intrinsic to New York City. With these closures, low-income, immigrant and marginalized communities are suffering most, causing the diversity/health of the cities to suffer as well.

    However, there are ways to support these businesses which are so integral to their communities. I believe that the expansion of programs such as New York’s ‘Business Pandemic Recovery Initiative’, which provides $800 million to support the funding of small businesses, as well as other government grants, both state and federal, is critical in supporting small businesses. It was both frustrating and disheartening to see small shops that had significant customer bases have to either relocate to different towns or even completely shut down due to rising operating costs, like my favorite noodle shop. Government business relief funds should be in place to act as a safety net for any future financial crises that may impact local small businesses.

    The diversity found in cities and the multitude of opportunities they provide are among some of the main factors which make cities so desirable. This diversity is reflected in the businesses which litter the streets, shaping the cities around them. However, in order to maintain these local businesses more must be done to aid them in light of these rising operating costs.

    Support your local small businesses: they are the foundations of our communities!

    • Genessa, I appreciate your courageous decision to share your anecdotal experience of city living, providing a great insight into how affordability and small businesses in cities have recently been declining. Your personal experience led me to contemplate and analyze the reasons for why these phenomena are happening as I also could easily relate to this problem from my own experience.

      As you mentioned in your comment, I am also very familiar with niche stores, small restaurants, and little parks in my hometown, Seoul. Like New York City, Seoul, being the capital of South Korea, is the biggest city in my home country. Though many people know Seoul as an urban city, full of neon lights that do not sleep, to my foreign friends, I always explain Seoul as a dynamic city with a combination of diverse markets including both big and small businesses. Since my childhood, I’ve been drawn to the small stores around the corners of an old street behind my apartment. I still remember Ms. Chang, the old owner of the store, always smiling at me and telling me about the new popping candy flavors that had just arrived. Last summer, as soon as I got off the plane from Boston to come all the way back to Korea after several years of studying abroad, I ran straight to the store to see Ms. Chang. However, when I arrived in front of the store, the only thing I could see was a bold sign with a red cross that said ‘temporarily closed’. This was a huge shock for me and after this, I realized the importance of small businesses in our society.

      Although I agree with your solution about economically supporting small businesses, I believe that only providing financial aid would not be an ideal solution to fully prevent the loss of small businesses. Funding money would provide people with new opportunities to start one’s businesses or even expand their ideas with having a great amount of seed money to invest. However, without having the necessary business knowledge on how to operate a business and create profit out of it, the funding may be ineffective, or even, useless. I have learned this from my personal experience of participating in an organization called Korean Cambodia Cow Bank(KCCB), which is an organization established to support low-income Cambodians using microfinance. This program allowed the local Cambodian villagers to have an opportunity to raise a cow and farm their own crops using this cow at no expense. However, I learned that this system of providing cows with zero liabilities to the villagers not only disincentivizes them from working hard to gain profit but also misses the essential step of educating the locals about how to farm. Many of the locals who we provided the cow, lost them in a short period of time since they did not know how to raise and feed them. As such, I strongly believe that both financial funding and education should both be promoted to effectively help entrepreneurs operating small stores in the urban city.

  14. Growing up in New York City Queens, I’ve seen the prices of necessities and other products rise throughout the years, making it hard for people to have a somewhat standard lifestyle in New York. Living in urban areas requires a lot of financial stability, and that’s a struggle for most people. However, even financially struggling, most choose to live in the cities. Therefore, I agree with the article that the financial aspects of city living need to be addressed. The article mentions that areas of the city with a wealth of resources, like easy access to medical services or jobs, tend to be more expensive. The prices of locations in cities go up when they offer their residents the benefit of increasing their happiness or living standards, just as they do in a grocery store, where products are compared by their familiarity, usefulness, and other factors.

    I also believe that affordability in cities needs to improve so even people with low income or poor financial standing can live comfortably in cities and not be forced to move to an area they can afford but are not happy in. As for equitability, I believe that it is essential for a city to have a diverse community and, at the same time, allow for more equitability. After Covid hit, many cases of Asian Hate appeared in the city, and I am 100% sure that the family of the victims feels awful about this. Furthermore, this lack of equality leads to Asians being scared to walk on the streets, which makes this so-called “home” not so safe to live in anymore. We, as possible victims of hate crimes, should step up when we see others getting hurt due to their ethnicity or difference. Environmental sustainability is also significant because who wouldn’t want to live in a clean and comfortable city? Am I right? If these factors are improved, I’m sure this will increase residents’ happiness. It will also make the urban areas sound more appealing and less frightening.

    To improve affordability, houses should be less expensive, and more homes should be built near transit to make things easier for people who work most of the time. People should have access to job opportunities regardless of their education level. If jobs looked at your skills and experiences instead of where you went to school, that would be a good idea. Thus, people could earn money and live in urban areas despite the high costs. Transportation should also be fixed to improve life in urban areas. Using public transport to go to school costs a lot of money each month, making a living in the city so much more challenging. Also, it would be much easier if traffic was fixed in the city. Cars were made to make traveling easier, but being in the town

  15. I found this article inspiring having lived in four different cities across four different countries. Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, I have experienced firsthand the issues of affordability and equal sharing of resources. With its population of over 10 million people, Jakarta struggles against the lack of affordable housing and basic utilities. Like in many Asian cities, To access water for daily needs, residents resort to constructing wells to access groundwater. Unfortunately, this water is unpurified, posing major health risks, while the excessive extraction contributes to the sinking of Jakarta and exacerbates the effects of rising sea levels.

    My subsequent move to Bangkok, Thailand exposed me to another facet of urban challenges: inequality. The stark contrast between wealthy gated communities and impoverished slums put the deep-rooted social stratification within the city on full display. Even at a young age, it became clear to me that access to resources and opportunities varied greatly depending on one’s socioeconomic status. Witnessing such inequity has fueled my desire for a more equitable urban environment.

    After living in Bangkok, Tokyo, Japan became my next home. The devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011 exposed the vulnerabilities of urban infrastructure, particularly the risks associated with relying heavily on nuclear power. Japan, in its pursuit of energy independence, had constructed numerous nuclear power plants. However, the Fukushima disaster shattered the nation’s faith in nuclear energy, leaving a lasting impact on the environment and energy policies. Japan now heavily relies on imported fossil fuels, further highlighting the difficulty of achieving sustainable urban development. Additionally, Japan has seen mass urbanization as young people leave their aging towns for better job opportunities in Japan’s major cities. This exodus leaves rural communities with an elderly population and few young people to take care of them, forcing people to retire older and older every year. When visiting Shiraiwa Village, a community outside of Tokyo on a trip with my family, I was shocked to see empty houses and understaffed farms.

    Currently residing in the suburbs of New York City, I am still connected to urban life, regularly venturing into the bustling metropolis of Manhattan. As I help my sister search for an apartment to stay in, the high rent for small rooms is representative of the scarcity found in the city. The issues of affordability, equity, and sustainability make it challenging for urban families from disadvantaged backgrounds to live a decent quality of life.

    Recognizing the power of urban migration, I believe that cities will continue to play a vital role in the global landscape, fostering diversity and innovation. However, forming livable cities requires strengthening utility infrastructure, reducing wealth inequality, and creating well-diversified job opportunities. Reflecting on my own experiences, I see the importance of addressing these urban challenges on both a local and global level. Through informed decision-making, we can shape the urban environments of our future to foster inclusivity and enhance the quality of life.

  16. In the article “The Business of Urban Living,” Diana Drake states, “Cities cannot be inclusive without affordable housing near transportation, jobs, and necessary public services like safety, health care, and education.”

    The urban migration trend has been central to societal transformations globally, and this quote encapsulates a critical challenge that cities face – affordable housing. Amidst the demographic shifts brought on by the pandemic, the question of inclusivity in cities is taking on newfound relevance. To me, an inclusive city encompasses of a range of cultures, economic classes, and ways of life. In essence, it represents the very heart of urban living.

    Ever since my early teenage years, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of cities – pulsating hubs of innovation, culture, and diversity. Growing up in al large city represented limitless possibilities, and I believe many share this sentiment. However, my exploration of urban spaces, as fascinating as it has been, has also led me to observe an alarming disconnect. A city’s vibrancy is often juxtaposed with housing struggles and socio-economic disparity. This paradox intrigued me and led me to delve deeper into the economics of urban development. Can affordable housing be a driver for economic and social mobility? How can we ensure that the benefits of urban life are more equitably shared?

    These are questions I grapple with, and in doing so, I am led to more conversations and ideation. This quote, in many ways, reaffirms my commitment to this cause and serves as a reminder of the gravity of the challenge at hand. This quote reminds us that affordable housing is more than just a roof over one’s head. It’s about ensuring access to opportunities, safety, healthcare, and education — key factors that contribute to an individual’s quality of life.

    This quote highlights the the inclusivity, resilience, and sustainability considerations that broaden the lens through which we view the ‘urban flight’ phenomenon. It sparks a conversation about the potential for cities to recover post-pandemic and emerge stronger and more equitable as a reminder to decision-makers, urban planners, and even ordinary citizens. While the allure of the small-town life may be temporary, the challenges cities face are enduring. Tackling these issues head-on, starting with affordable housing, can redefine the urban landscape in a way that benefits all its inhabitants.

    In doing so, we don’t merely predict the future of cities. We create it.

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