The crisis in luxury housing is also an example of the pandemic accelerating a trend rather than creating one. Even before COVID-driven job losses forced people to downsize, developers chased luxury housing on a scale no market could match. In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that builders in the U.S. were on track to create more new units of housing in 2020 than in any year since the 1980s. The catch was the 80 percent of those expected 371,000 new rentals are Class A properties geared toward high earners. Given the high cost of land and labor, it's simply easier to turn a profit building housing for the wealthy, developers said.


But only delusions of grandeur--of slippery ideas like permanence and "placemaking," which is developer lingo for this particular kind of urban revitalization--could encourage the idea that raising entire glossy neighborhoods from scratch would make cities more livable or civically minded. And as it turns out, the things cities chased for so long are part of the reason people are turning away from them.

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