TIME cities

The Rise of Suburban Poverty in America

Rooftops in suburban development in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Rooftops in suburban development in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Blend Images/Spaces Images/Getty Images

The suburbs aren't the middle-class haven many imagine them to be as new numbers show 16.5 million suburban Americans are living beneath the poverty line

Colorado Springs is often included on lists of the best places to live in America thanks to its 250 days of sun a year, world-class ski resorts and relatively high home values. But over the last decade, its suburbs have attained a less honorable distinction: they’ve experienced some of the largest increases in suburban poverty rates.

The suburbs surrounding Colorado Springs now have seven Census tracts with 20% or more residents in poverty, according to a report released Thursday by the Brookings Institution. In 2000, it had none. In those neighborhoods, 35% of residents are now considered to be below the poverty line, defined as a family of four making $23,492 or less in 2012.

“We’ve seen this all over the state,” says Kathy Underhill of Hunger Free Colorado, a statewide anti-hunger organization, referring to the growth of suburban poverty. “But I think the American public has been slow to realize this transition from urban poverty to suburban poverty.”

Poverty in the U.S. has worsened in neighborhoods already considered to be poor, but it’s now becoming more prevalent in the nation’s suburbs, according to the Brookings report.

“Poverty has become more regional in scope,” says Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution and a co-author of the report. “But at the same time, it’s more concentrated and it’s erased a lot of the progress that we made in the 1990s.”

In the last decade, the number of Census tracts considered “distressed” — in which at least 40% of residents live in poverty — has risen by almost 72%. The number of poor people living in those neighborhoods has grown by an even faster rate—78%—from 3 million to 5.3 million. In 2000, the percentage of poor people who live in economically distressed neighborhoods was 9.1%. Today, it’s 12.2%.

Those areas are leading to what Kneebone calls a “double burden” for impoverished residents—being poor while living in a low-income area that often has failing schools, inadequate healthcare systems and higher crime rates. And as those areas are increasingly located in suburban areas, low-income Americans don’t have the kind of social safety nets often found in urban centers.

The numbers of suburban poor are growing at a more rapid rate than those in urban areas. In 2012, there were 16.5 million Americans living below the poverty line in the suburbs compared with 13.5 million in cities. The number of suburban poor living in distressed neighborhoods grew by 139% since 2000, compared with a 50% jump in cities. Overall, the number of poor living in the suburbs has grown by 65% in the past 14 years—twice as much growth as in urban areas.

It’s easy to pin the growth of concentrated and suburban poverty on the recession, but the spread of poverty throughout the U.S. has broader and more varied explanations. The numbers of suburban poor have been swelled by low-income residents who might once have lived in urban cores, but have been priced out of gentrifying cities, and have moved into affordable housing more prevalent in the suburbs.

Suburban areas also tend to be centered around industries most affected by the economic downturn, like manufacturing and construction, and the jobs that have taken their place are often low-paying, like retail and service positions.

There are also few social programs to help the suburban poor ascend the economic ladder. In the counties surrounding the Denver and Colorado Springs area, for example, many charitable organizations and anti-poverty programs have historically been focused on urban cores and haven’t caught up to changing demographics.

“The charitable infrastructure over the decades have focused on the inner city,” says Underhill of Hunger Free Colorado. “They’ve traditionally not had big case loads and aren’t accustomed to the level of service that’s needed.”

The Brookings report highlights a few suburbs that have seen decreases in poverty, including those around El Paso, Texas; Baton Rouge, La.; and Jackson, Miss. But they were outliers. In North Carolina, three suburban areas—Winston-Salem, Greensboro-High Point, and Charlotte—saw significant increases in both the number of economically distressed neighborhoods and the percentage of poor in those areas. Atlanta now has 197 areas with poverty rates above 20%, up from 32 in 2000.

“Suburban areas are no longer just homes to middle- and upper-income households,” says University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson. “There were always poor suburbs, but much of the outflow of population from urban cores to suburbs has historically been middle- and upper-income. That is less true now.”

Kneebone agrees, saying the perception that suburban areas were some sort of middle-class haven “was always a bit too simplistic.”

“Poverty is touching all kinds of communities,” Kneebone says. “It’s not just over there anymore.”

TIME cities

UCLA Begins Clean-Up After Massive Water Main Break

Water gushes from a broken water main on Sunset Boulevard on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles
Water gushes from a broken water main on Sunset Boulevard on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles July 29, 2014 in this still image from aerial video from NBCLA.com. NBCLA.com/Reuters

The university's Pauley Pavilion was flooded after millions of gallons of water gushed from a broken water main

Updated July 30, 6:21 am ET

The University of California-Los Angeles began the task of cleaning up damaging flash floods Wednesday, after a broken water main spilled millions of gallons of water onto campus and nearby Sunset Boulevard.

The water main broke at around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, officials said, sending a 20-to-30-foot fountain of water gushing into the air. Water was shut off at around 7 p.m., but not before an estimated 8 to 10 million gallons spilled into the surrounding areas — including the historic Pauley Pavilion, where UCLA’s basketball teams play.

“Pauley Pavilion has taken quite a bit of water,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said on Tuesday night. “It’s painful. It’s a beautiful structure. We’re of course concerned. We’ve got to let it dry out and see where we are.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department sent inflatable boats to the area to assist in the rescue effort as the flood waters inundated campus athletic fields and underground parking lots, trapping at least three people in cars, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“This is the same thing you would have in any flash flood,” L.A. Fire Dept. Capt. Jaime Moore said.

Undeterred by the rising tide, students waded barefoot through the ankle-deep puddles. Some reportedly showed up with boogie boards, much to the displeasure of authorities. “That is probably one of the most dangerous things you can do,” Moore said. “For somebody to try and boogie board in this, it’s just going to be an asphalt bath.”

Classes at UCLA were due to proceed as usual on Wednesday, though Sunset Boulevard was expected to be closed to traffic until Wednesday afternoon.

[NBC News]

TIME cities

This Drone Video Reveals Downtown LA’s Hidden Architectural Gems

See the City of Angels from a whole new perspective

+ READ ARTICLE

Downtown Los Angeles has been undergoing a visible revitalization for years, but this aerial video from a downtown resident shows that many of the city’s gems have been hiding in plain sight.

“One of the things you’re told growing up in New York City is that only the tourists look up,” said Ian Wood, who used a GoPro camera attached to a drone to capture the city. “Now with this project in mind I was looking up and seeing all these amazing things.”

Among the sights in the video are the colorfully-designed tiled tower atop the Los Angeles Public Library, breathtaking murals and street art, and a whole lot of art deco architecture.

Sit back and enjoy.

TIME

Pittsburgh, You’re Too Nice to Be Unhappy

Pittsburgh at night
Tom Olson—Getty Images

A new study says the Rust Belt city is the second least happy metropolis in the United States. Quit whining, yinz. Pittsburgh's got too much going for it to be depressed

C’mon Pittsburgh, what’s your problem? Seriously.

It wasn’t all that surprising that some piece of convoluted research by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that New York City is the nation’s unhappiest city. Of course it is. Being domiciled here is designed to make you unhappy. Even furious. You take your life in your hands crossing the street because angry cab drivers are pissed off that you are using their roadway. And you return the favor as you slowly walk in front of them, glaring. Yesterday, my subway was halted by an announcement that someone needed medical attention. Passengers were annoyed that someone had the temerity to pass out on their train. There are eight million of us crammed into buses, trains and apartments. We pay $15 for a sandwich and have to argue for an extra pickle. It’s one seething metropolis, all right. We love it that way.

But the NBER is telling me Pittsburgh is the runner up in unhappy. You gotta be kidding me. Pittsburgh doesn’t know from unhappy. I’ve lived there. These are not people who behave as though they are miserable. Pittsburghers are so darn nice you could scream. You want to make a left turn against traffic? Go ahead, don’t even bother to stop because the driver opposite will be waving you across. Why? Because Pittsburghers aren’t in a mad rush to get somewhere. They don’t have to fight for anything. You want to go to a baseball game or a symphony? No problem, there are always tickets, and parking isn’t a hassle. Want to leave town? Easy. Pittsburgh has an airport that’s actually pleasant, if underused, while New York has three area airports that aren’t good enough to qualify as UN refugee camps.

You want to be unhappy, Pittsburgh, don’t let me hear about quality of living. Or the cost. Compared with New York, living costs are a bargain. You don’t have to inhabit $5,000 a month shoeboxes. There are plenty of green spaces and parks in which to frolic and you can buy a knockwurst and cheese sandwich at Primanti Bros. for $6.39. That’s about the price of a Hershey bar in midtown Manhattan.

This is not the criteria for unhappy. Sure, Pittsburgh has taken its share of hard knocks. The steel industry imploded in the 1980s, and half the population had to abandon the place. The city was broke. But since then other industries, including special metals, have restored some of its manufacturing base while high-tech firms and the medical industry have added to the economic base. Pittsburgh’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What do you have to complain about? In New York City, the unemployment rate was 6.7%, unless you are in acting, where it’s 97%.

So listen up, Pittsburgh. I know you’ve got a chip on your shoulder. You always want to be No. 1 one in something. Yeah, Cleveland got the Republican convention and LeBron, but you look down on Cleveland anyway. They’re Midwesterners, aren’t they, and you think of yourselves as part of the East. But don’t even think about taking over our spot as the nation’s leading whiners. You’re too nice. Your city is too livable. Find something else to be unhappy about, and we’ll tawk.

TIME cities

These Are the 10 Unhappiest Cities in America

N.Y.Yankees vs Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium., Yankee
N.Y.Yankees vs Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium., Yankee fans are unhappy and concerned as they lose another game and the hopes of a post-season slip away. New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

America's got some unhappy cities. Here are the worst ones

It’s no surprise that residents of cities on the decline like Detroit and Indianapolis are some of the unhappiest people in the country. Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University found that happiness in cities is greater when a city is growing—and one thing that America’s old rust belt cities don’t have is newcomers eager to move in. But the city that tops the list as the most unhappy in America is no bankrupt old steel mill town — It’s New York City.

By using data gathered from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the research team found that New York is the most miserable American city with over 1 million people, despite its denizens being among the highest paid in the country. As the researchers put it, people who live in unhappier cities actually receive higher wages, “presumably as compensation for their misery.”

What about the happiest cities? Well, the Richmond-Petersburg metropolitan area in Virginia ranked as the happiest in the country with over 1 million residents, and many of the most joyful cities appear to be scattered about the south in sunnier climes.

The researchers said in the paper that they couldn’t verify a lot of patterns previous studies have established—that unhappiness is related to income inequality, that weather has a direct improvement on happiness—but they did say that happiness is not necessarily the most important factor for choosing a city to live in.

“Our research indicates that people care about more than happiness alone, so other factors may encourage them to stay in a city despite their unhappiness,” says Gottlieb. “This means that researchers and policy-makers should not consider an increase in reported happiness as an overriding objective.”

Here’s the rest of the rankings, in list form. The data researchers used was all self-reported, so it’s not a definitive measure of people’s well-being. But it does shed light on city dwellers’ perception of their own lives.

Top 10 happiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):

1. Richmond-Petersburg, VA
2. Norfolk-Virginia Beach-Newport News, VA
3. Washington, DC
4. Raleigh-Durham, NC
5. Atlanta, GA
6. Houston, TX
7. Jacksonville, FL
8. Nashville, TN
9. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
10. Middlesex-Somerset-Hunterdon, NJ

Top 10 unhappiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million (as of 2010):

1. New York, NY
2. Pittsburgh, PA
3. Louisville, KY
4. Milwaukee, WI
5. Detroit, MI
6. Indianapolis, IN
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Las Vegas, NV
9. Buffalo, NY
10. Philadelphia, PA

U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest reported happiness:

1. Charlottesville, VA
2. Rochester, MN
3. Lafayette, LA
4. Naples, FL
5. Baton Rouge, LA
6. Flagstaff, AZ
7. Shreveport, LA
8. Houma, LA
9. Corpus Christi, TX
10. Provo, UT

TIME cities

San Francisco Will Vote On Soda Tax in November

San Francisco Board Of Supervisors Proposes Putting Soda Tax On Nov. Ballot
Various bottles of soda are displayed in a cooler at Marina Supermarket on July 22, 2014 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The city could be the first in the nation to tax the sugary drinks

San Francisco lawmakers voted Tuesday to advance a proposal to tax sugary sodas. If voters approve the measure in November, the tax will become the first of its kind in the nation.

“In San Francisco, we set examples,” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. “We have a responsibility to try new things and fight the fight and see where this goes.”

The lawmakers agreed that the city would be better off if residents consumed fewer sugary beverages, which have been linked to obesity and diabetes. But the 6-4 vote reflected the divide over whether a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on soda is the best way to promote healthier habits.

Proponents of the measure argued that education alone is not enough and that a financial signal would better get the message across. Critics said that a “regressive flat tax” could end up passing costs onto low-income consumers who disproportionately purchase soda, without curbing soda intake. “This is being forced down people’s throats,” says Supervisor London Breed, who voted against the measure.

A Field Research poll released in February found that 67% of California voters would approve such a tax if the revenue is earmarked for healthy initiatives, as it is in the San Francisco proposal. An analysis from a city economist estimated that the tax would curb soda intake in the city by 31%. Under the measure, a bottle of soda that sells for $1.60 now would cost $2.

To become law, the initiative will have to be approved by two-thirds of voters and withstand strong opposition from deep-pocketed organizations like the American Beverage Association. Such “Big Soda” lobbyists have spent millions defeating soda tax measures in Congress and at least a dozen states. In 2012, soda tax measures in the California towns of El Monte and Richmond failed by wide margins.

Earlier this month, Berkeley lawmakers voted to put a one-cent-per-ounce soda tax before voters there in November.

TIME cities

San Francisco Shower Bus Offers Hygiene to the Homeless

Nonprofit hopes shower bus can offer dignity to some homeless residents

+ READ ARTICLE

An old public bus in San Francisco has been converted into a portable shower station to provide hygienic bathrooms to the homeless.

The bus, converted by nonprofit LavaMae, contains two private showers and toilets and provides towels and soap. The creators say it’s more about providing individual comfort than ending homelessness.

But despite the fact that the showers could help some homeless people stay clean as public showers around the city close, they don’t enjoy unanimous support.

Some critics say that the buses, which are largely funded by big donations from companies like Google, are a perfect example of San Francisco’s widening gap between the super-rich and the very poor.

TIME Economy

Motor City Revival: Detroit’s Stunning Evolution in 19 GIFs

One year ago today Detroit became the largest city in US history to file for bankruptcy. See what changes took place in the city in the years leading up to the momentous declaration.

The Motor City, the former automotive capital of the nation, has seen a steady and precipitous decline in population and economic growth over the last half-century. The automotive industry’s move out of Detroit, poor political decision-making, and the collapse of the housing industry can all be viewed as causes for the city’s decline, among other reasons. On July 18, 2013, unable to pay its looming debts, Detroit became the largest city in U.S. history to enter bankruptcy.

However, this momentous step did not happen overnight. Detroit was hit with a housing crisis in 2008, a sign of economic trouble that foreshadowed the city’s bankruptcy. A major outcome of that crisis is the city’s ongoing blight epidemic. Vast stretches of abandoned residential property lay on the outskirts of the once sprawling 139-square-mile city.

As Steven Gray wrote in 2009, “If there’s any city that symbolizes the most extreme effects of the nation’s economic crisis and, in particular, America’s housing crisis, it is Detroit.”

While many of the buildings and houses within the city have disappeared, evidence of a former era can be found in the more than 80,000 blighted houses remaining combined with an estimated 5,000 incidents of arson each year, according to the New York Times Magazine.

Despite all this, the Motor City could have a bright road ahead. There has been a recent surge in growth, spurred by a sense of opportunity in the ever-evolving city. New businesses are popping up and property is being rebuilt and re-purposed for urban farming, startups and public art.

Google Street view images, compiled here into GIFs, offer a unique look at how Detroit’s landscape has changed over the past four to six years leading up to the city’s bankruptcy a year ago.

TIME cities

These Are America’s 10 Saddest Ghost Towns

Empty buildings and streets in downtown Cawker City, Kansas.
Empty buildings and streets in downtown Cawker City, Kansas. Mike Theiss—National Geographic/Getty Images

247-LogoVersions-114x57
This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247wallst.com.

By and

While there are a variety of options for homeowners in foreclosure, many have chosen to cut their losses and abandon their property. The housing market has been improving across much of the nation. However, some cities still have a long recovery process ahead of them as the market deals with a glut of homes in foreclosure, which can often stay in the system for several years. Meanwhile, many of these remain vacant.

In Wichita, Kansas, nearly half of homes in foreclosure were abandoned as of the first quarter of 2014. In six of the nation’s most populous metro areas, at least a third of homes in foreclosure were vacant. Based on data provided by housing data website RealtyTrac for the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, these are the cities where residents are abandoning their homes.

Median housing prices in all but one of the metro areas with the most vacant homes were among the lowest in the country. In addition, housing prices fell during the last 12 months in four of the 10 cities: Boise, St. Louis, Syracuse, and Wichita. Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, explained that this drop in prices creates a problem for both banks and homeowners because neither wants to hold on to a depreciating asset. This increases the likelihood that homeowners will abandon their homes and banks may find that foreclosing on the home could be more expensive than writing it off.

ALSO READ: Ten States with the Slowest Growing Economies

The length of the entire foreclosure process is a major contributor to vacancy rates because homeowners are more likely to give up on their homes the longer they have to wait for a resolution. Blomquist explained that as foreclosure processes stretch on for years and years, homeowners begin to believe they will not be able to save the house and decide to move on with their lives.

In fact, several of these cities with the most abandoned homes are in states with very lengthy average foreclosure times. Palm Bay, for example, is located in Florida, where the average foreclosure process took 935 days to complete in the first quarter, the second-longest time among all states.

While lengthy and exhausting foreclosure processes encourage some homeowners to abandon their homes, in other cases, people intentionally move away early because they don’t fully understanding the process. With changing housing laws in many states, “homeowners may have more options than they realize to avoid foreclosure,” Blomquist said.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 metropolitan statistical areas with the highest vacancy rates among homes in foreclosure, based on data provided by RealtyTrac for the 100 most populous metropolitan statistical areas. RealtyTrac also provided metro-level median home prices, population, and foreclosure rates, all of which are for the most recent available period. 24/7 Wall St. calculated 12 month average home prices and year-over-year percent change from May of each year. RealtyTrac also provided the average length of foreclosure processes in each state, as of the first quarter of 2014. We also reviewed income data from the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, and unemployment rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These are the cities with the most abandoned homes.

5. St. Louis, Mo.-Ill.

> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 34%
> Total vacated homes: 847 (27th highest)
> Average home price: $96,083 (14th lowest)

The number of vacant homes in the St. Louis area dropped by nearly 50% between the second quarters of 2013 and this year. Despite this, still more than a third of the area’s 2,500 properties in foreclosure were vacant as of the second quarter. Residents of the St. Louis area are subject to either Missouri’s non-judicial foreclosure process or Illinois’ judicial one. The average lengths of proceedings in both states, however, are exceptionally high and have been on the rise in the last year. A complete foreclosure process took roughly one year on average in Missouri and more than 800 days in Illinois, both among the longer proceedings compared to other large metro areas. Long foreclosure procedures in both states likely contributed to the area’s 34% vacancy rate.

ALSO READ: Ten States with the Fastest Growing Economies

4. Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 36%
> Total vacated homes: 305 (47th lowest)
> Average home price: $150,717 (42nd highest)

While housing prices in the country rose over the last two years, housing prices in the Kansas City metro area declined 9%. Additionally, the foreclosure rate in the first quarter of 2014 declined by more than 50% from the same period in 2012. Despite the drop in owner vacated homes and the falling foreclosure rate, home prices in the Kansas City metro area fell 9% since 2012, one of the higher declines in the country. Declining home prices may explain why more than one in 10 foreclosed homes in January 2014 failed to sell at auction and were repossessed by the bank, one of the higher rates on this list. This may be a sign that the housing market has not fully recovered.

3. Birmingham-Hoover, Ala.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 37%
> Total vacated homes: 428 (43rd highest)
> Average home price: $149,682 (44th highest)

The Birmingham-Hoover region was the only metro area on this list where the unemployment rate rose between the first quarters of 2013 and 2014. High unemployment may, in part, contribute to owner vacancies rising 19% between the first and second quarters of 2014 as owners who lost their jobs may have been afraid of going into foreclosure, as Blomquist suggested. In the first quarter of 2014, it took just 193 days to complete foreclosure proceedings. And while area home prices rose in recent years, they still remain among the lowest in the country.

2. Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 37%
> Total vacated homes: 804 (30th highest)
> Average home price: $251,888 (12th highest)

Low, declining home prices can lead to higher vacancy rates, as owners are more likely to give up on a property depreciating in value. Prices in the Portland region, however, are exceptionally high. Over the 12 months prior to this past May, a home in the area sold for more than $251,000 on average, among the most compared to other large metro areas. And prices are rising — the median home price in May was up 22% from the same period a year before, one of the larger increases among metro areas reviewed. While the region’s vacancy rate is second only to Wichita, there are signs of improvement for the Portland area. The average length of foreclosure proceedings in Oregon fell 20% over the year prior to the first quarter, which may make homeowners less likely to abandon a property.

1. Wichita, Kan.
> Pct. foreclosures vacated: 49%
> Total vacated homes: 146 (30th lowest)
> Average home price: $131,292 (39th highest)

There were only 301 properties in foreclosure in Wichita as of the second quarter of this year. Nearly half of those, however, had been abandoned by their owners, the highest vacancy rate among the nation’s largest metro areas. Like many metro areas where residents are abandoning their homes, Wichita is located in a state with a judicial foreclosure system, which tends to lengthen the proceedings. The average foreclosure process in the first quarter took 524 days in Kansas, up 34% from the same period a year before and among the higher wait times among major U.S. metro areas. Another factor contributing to the region’s high vacancy rate is likely low and depreciating home prices — as the value of a home decreases, the financial pressure of an unpaid mortgage will go up. Home prices in Wichita were 3% lower in May 2014 than they were in May of last year.

For the rest of the list, go to 24/7Wall St.

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TIME health

Watch Shoppers Smash a Hot Car Window to Free Trapped Toddlers

The mother pleaded with witnesses not to call the police

A group of shoppers in a Katy, Texas, parking lot took it upon themselves to break through the window of hot Jeep on Monday to free children trapped inside.

The children’s mother had left the two young kids, a boy and a girl, locked in the car while she got a haircut, WUSA 9 reports.

“The kids were in there crying,” said Gabriel Del Valle, who shot a cell phone video of the incident. “I mean you would understand. It’s real hot.”

Witnesses said the mother pleaded with all involved not to call the police and said she had made a terrible mistake. The children reportedly appeared unhurt and authorities were not contacted.

[WUSA9]

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