Dick Florida's mea culpa: A 180˚ on "Creative Cities"

When people ask what went wrong, and how did Vancouver get to this crisis point of inequality and unaffordability — I've often pointed to the Richard Florida mantra of the creative class / creative cities: a school of urbanism that has dominated our city's politics and planning for the last decade.

Florida's premise: that economic and urban renewal could result from wooing the "creative class", that things like hip coffee shops, bike infrastructure, and social engineering with a progressive veneer would fuel urban transformations.

Then, as now, critics pointed out that this revitalization would bring wider income disparity; and that in its desirability, the creative class city would quickly run dry of affordable housing. Well, it happened, and its happening: our city is reaping what the creative class thought leaders have sown.

That is why it's so incredible, fifteen years on, to hear Florida now pull away from the very theory that made him a star in urbanist circles — and candidly admit that there is a very dark side to the urban creative revolution: inequality. The creative class divide.

His new theories now talk about "inclusive urbanism", about investing in residents' skills rather than yuppifying communities. It echoes a lot of the work I'm doing now, where urbanist and developer-speak about "placemaking" are countered with the need for place-based strategies: namely, urban revitalization that includes the people who are already here.

Florida also takes aim at: "the tribe of urban libertarians who advocate loosening development restrictions to boost housing construction and bring down prices, as if affordability were simply a matter of supply and demand"

So for once, I'm actually looking forward to the hearing something Richard Florida has to say. The book is expected next spring.


Read review of the "The New Urban Crisis" here