Markets & Economy

BuildZoom: Has the expansion of American cities slowed down?

Don't believe the rumors — American cities are expanding
  • American cities are still expanding, just at different rates.
  • Most cities fall into two categories -- expensive and expansive cities. Expensive cities, such as San Francisco, build their economy on higher property values due to limited space. Expansion cities, such as Atlanta, build their economy on population growth due to building more homes.
  • The chief economist of BuildZoom says expensive cities could be made more affordable by promoting regional government, rather than hyperlocal government, whose regulations tend to dampen construction.

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BuildZoom, a company that helps consumers find competent contractors, released a study on the expansion of American cities over the past 60-plus years. According to BuildZoom's chief economist, Dr. Issi Romem, the expansion of cities as a whole hasn't slowed down. In fact, many are expanding a similar rate seen in the 1950s. But when you dive deeper into the data, the story becomes a little different. The majority of cities fall into two categories -- expensive cities or expansive cities. Strength through wealth Expensive cities, such as San Francisco, Boston, New York, Seattle, San Diego, Washington, Philadelphia, Portland and Miami, have slowed their outward expansion and look to higher property values to build economic strength. Expensive cities are often limited from expanding because of natural geography and restrictive land use policies. Because of these factors, these cities have what Romem calls an "inelastic" supply of housing, which means developers res...