"In either case, the financial hegemons win, since they, essentially, get to have someone else to pay their mortgages. As for society, it's a losing proposition. Rather than the yeoman with his own place, and the social commitment that comes with it, we now have the prospect of a vast lower class permanently forced to tip its hat to – and empty its wallet for – its economic betters. This is the fate ardently hoped for by many urbanists, who see a generation of permanent renters as part of their dream of a denser America."
Yes, there is terrifying and growing economic inequality in the US. But I disagree with the fulcrum on which the argument of "Downsizing the American Dream" balances: you can have wealth-building suburban single family home ownership or you can have dense urban permanent "rentership".
Has Joel Kotkin never heard of condos or co-ops? If real estate prices weren't so astronomical in San Francisco, that's what I would be weighing... one day. But opportunities for shared ownership of multi-family housing are only the most obvious mechanism to encourage social commitment to place. If the suburban housing boom was driven by federal financing (I didn't check this, but it's asserted in the article), a 21st century urban housing boom can be too. It's a mental shortcut to think of renters as only unattached 20-somethings, and by proxy as temporary residents.
And the "regulatory policies" he snipes at that make new construction expensive? No San Franciscan can claim our city makes it easy for new construction, but it's those same regulations that keep new buildings from becoming the "tenements" of the 21st century.
I'm not quite sure why this article touched off such a nerve. I'd been dragging it around in a Chrome tab for a while. Perhaps my extreme disappointment in it was flavored by "I let THIS eat up RAM on my computer for a WEEK?!"