Flight of the bobos: With the middle class leaving, will big cities only be home to the super rich?
Anyone with even a passing interest in city life knows about gentrification, where well-heeled, middle class house hunters end up pricing working-class residents out of their neighbourhoods. Though the topic has dominated discourse for the last couple of decades, there’s a new urban trend to be wary of: plutocratisation.
In other words, big cities around the world are becoming the preferred habitats of the 1 per cent. An article in the Financial Times breaks down the phenomenon that’s becoming increasingly common in cities such as New York, Paris, Hong Kong, London and Singapore.
Global cities are no longer gritty no-go zones. “In the 1970s London was broke, New York was broke, Tokyo was broke, Paris was much poorer than now. And the built environment was a bit run down,” said Saskia Sassen of Columbia University in the article.
As cities recovered in the 1980s and 1990s, many cities faced waves of gentrification. Now, the middle class in many of the metros are packing up. The article explains how “bobos,” a term coined to describe the people with bourgeois incomes and bohemian tastes in Paris, are being priced out of the City of Light, as their more bohemian predecessors once were.
How do we know this is taking place? Well, there’s this. And though no Canadian cities were named in the Financial Times article, it’s hard not to think of how Toronto and Vancouver fare on the affordability scale.
The Three Cities Within Toronto report charted the disappearing middle class in the downtown and the Royal Bank recently pointed out Vancouver’s dismal affordability rate. The average home price in the first quarter of 2013 was $786,300, the highest in the country.
Could your city be next? You’ll just have to watch where the bobos are moving.