Thursday, March 11, 2010
Atlanta added 1.13 million people from 2000 to 2008, more than any other in the country except Dallas. But from 2005 to 2009, the number of annual building permits fell by 66,352, the biggest decline in any metropolitan area.
Will Atlanta continue to emerge as a mighty metropolitan economy, or will the housing downturn turn the area into a place that might have been?
After a succint review of Altanta's history as a city, Glaeser observes that growth policies and housing have been key to Atlanta's late-20th Century success:
Housing supply, not quality of life, has been the crucial helpmate of economic convergence. Atlanta has kept housing prices low, despite a vast increase in its size, because there are few natural or legislative limits to new construction.
The city was built in the middle of the state with neither mountains nor an ocean to block its growth. The dominant political players have long been pro-growth, and as a result, much of suburban Atlanta is a paradise for builders. The resulting low home prices have helped bring millions to the region.
Glaeser concludes that despite some of the economic problems that are currently plaguing sun-belt boom cities, Altanta's future may be bright, for three reasons: (1) its position as the dominant city in the region; (2) companies will continue to find its pro-business policies to be hospitable; and (3) it maintains a highly skilled population, with 43 percent of its adults holding college degrees (well above the national average and even higher than places like Boston (41%)). The next decade or so might be revealing about the long-term sustainability of the prevailing models of growth and land use in post-WWII America.