Consumers spend two of every three dollars in the U.S. economy. The lumpiness, choppiness, and dynamism inside that broad-brush stroke fact is what makes residential developers', planners', and builders' jobs hard. That's because an awful lot of money gets put into place as investment so far ahead of the time return on that investment is clear.
Hence, the seemingly unquenchable thirst for lists, rankings, arguably evidence-based predictions of where and how that two-of-every-three GDP dollars will get spent, and by whom.
This morning brings a fresh batch of rankings that should be of more than passing interest among those whose best real estate investments not only pre-date the first clear sign of coming demand, but also get out ahead of other real estate players' focus on them. An asynchronous edge.
That such advantages and investment rationales have moving-target assumptions may be unappreciated.
Here, Josh Lehner, senior economist at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, looks at "new geography" as a holistic interaction among a three-legged stool of sustainable local appeal--good jobs growth and economic strength, housing affordability, and quality of life. In some ways, the three forces are self-evidently symbiotic, and in others there's practically an inverse correlation of one or more of the three forces with the others.
The reason these tradeoffs exist is mostly, but not entirely, due to market forces. People want to live in cities with a strong economy and high quality of life. Increased demand for housing leads to higher prices and lower affordability. Nice places to live get their housing costs bid up due to strong demand. The opposite is true as well. Regions with underperforming economies and a lower quality of life do have better affordability.
Lehner looks at the nation's 100 largest metros across these three data benchmarks here.
The suggestion here is that it's very rare and unlikely that all three forces would occur in the same place, giving meaning to the notion of a "Housing Trilemma," where one or two of the forces practically oppose the others. Lehner notes that just 8 metros rank among the top half for all three dimensions of the Housing Trilemma, and none rank among the Top 20 across all three.
Rankings and lists, whether housing-focused, or more broadly economics oriented, show this over and over, exposing one of the challenges of the current economy, which is for developers and community builders to--somehow--defy the apparent physics of the economy that seem to rule that good jobs and affordable, attainable housing solutions need to be mutually exclusive.
Here, New Geography demographics mavens Joel Kotkin and Michael Shires map out America's "best cities for information jobs," a rankings that, like many such lists, shows that "lumpy" is becoming "lumpier" when it comes to polarization of job opportunity for info economy jobs.
Here, too, CityLab's Richard Florida looks down at the neighborhood level at where venture capital money is flowing the thickest, to try to discern how that's impacting the three areas of Lehner's focus--affordability, economic growth, and quality of life.
Not to be outdone on the "new geography" of economics front, Forbes picks up on WalletHub's recent ranking of state economic performance, based on [un]employment rates, household incomes, and the size of the population living beneath the poverty line.
Just how that two-of-every-three GDP dollars gets spent--and by whom--underlies one of America's touchstone issues of the moment, which is that the thrust of the economy is doing more to polarize haves and have-nots in this era than to expand the "haves" zone to include more of us.
That's a topic we anticipate we'll be hearing a lot about over the next five months at least.