Monday, June 30, 2008

Suburbs a Mile To Far for Some

The Wall Street Journal (6/17, A18, Karp) reports that demands fueled by at least two generations and economic trends such as high gasoline prices are changing "a half-century-long pattern of how and where Americans live," and increasingly, they want to live in urban areas. The trend means that "the driveable surbub -- that bedrock of post-World War II society -- is for many a mile too far." The generational demands are coming from baby boomers and millennials, those "born between the late 1970s and mid-1990s," who "are leaving their nests and finding that higher-density urban living fits their lifestyle." Additionally, "the subprime mortgage crisis and $4-a-gallon gasoline are delivering further gut punches by blighting remote subdivisions nationwide and rendering long commutes untenable for middle-class Americans." One expert said the drive for urban living may be the "beginning of the end of sprawl," and a push for New Urbanism practices in building. The Journal notes that "[t]ransportation is the second-biggest household expense" for Americans. If urban living does come to dominate demand, Americans could mimic "European preference for public transportation."

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In related coverage, CNN (6/16, Farrar) reported that the deterioration of distant suburbs is under way, with "a not-so-pleasant path of empty houses, unkempt lawns, vacant strip malls, graffiti-sprayed desolate sidewalks, and even increased crime." One suburban resident, Shawn Yandell, of Elk Grove, Calif., is among those "trying to stick it out," although "the white picket fence of an American dream has faded into a seemingly hopeless suburban nightmare." Yandell told CNN, "The forecast is gloomy." In contrast, the evolution of downtown "can be witnessed in places like" Atlanta, Detroit, and Dallas, "where once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home...centered around long commutes and cars." One expert, Christopher Leinberger, an "urban planning professor at the University of Michigan and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution," estimated that "35 percent of the nation's wealth...has been invested in constructing this drivable suburban landscape." Yet, by 2025, as walkable urban communities emerge, "half of the real-estate development...will not have existed in 2000," another expert predicted.

for complete article click here



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