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Death Knell for Suburbs? Or a Cracked Bell Tolling from Academia?

First it was the climate crisis. Then it was the economy. Now the experts are sounding the alarm over... the future of the American suburbs? This time, you pointy-heads, you've gone too far! You can't have my tranquil, SUV-lined streets! I'm telling Rush Limbaugh and Sen. Inhofe about this. You'll be sorry.

But wait! There may be some substance to the concern about the potential decline of the suburbs, according to William H. Lucy, Professor of Urban Planning at University of Virginia, and author of "Foreclosing the Dream: How America's Crisis Is Changing Our Cities and Suburbs." A press release from the American Planning Association, the publisher of "Foreclosing the Dream," describes the book as the first to "look beyond the financial manipulations to understand what truly fueled the foreclosure crisis and what it means for the future of suburbs and cities." Among Lucy's findings:

  • "The number of households in the 30 to 45 age group has declined by 3.4 million since 2000." (Our question: This is a compelling number, but doesn't this reflect falling fertility rates, more than a cultural shift away from suburban living?)
  • "Higher rates of foreclosures in new suburbs and exurbs compared to lower rates in cities show that increasingly people want to live in cities." (Our question: Huh? Is foreclosure being treated here as a sign of consumer preference?)
  • "The stereotypical �white flight exodus' from central cities has been reversed in most large metropolitan areas." (Our question: We need to learn more about your dataset. It sounds, without seeing it, that conclusions are being drawn purely from ethnicity numbers, rather than income, age, household size, etc. In light of the high number of condominiums and apartments, both newly built and rehabbed, in major downtown areas, it is not surprising that the influx of college-educated office workers into downtown areas would offset "white flight" numbers. I would like to see statistics, however, regarding the number of young couples who move back to suburbia when they have children and seek high-quality public schools.) 

--Morris Newman

 

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