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The death of suburbia

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The death of suburbia

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sat 26 Nov 2011, 21:00:31

They are beginning to see the results of Peak oil but havn't quite made the connection.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/opini ... ef=general
It was predominantly the collapse of the car-dependent suburban fringe that caused the mortgage collapse.


Many drivable-fringe house prices are now below replacement value, meaning the land under the house has no value and the sticks and bricks are worth less than they would cost to replace. This means there is no financial incentive to maintain the house; the next dollar invested will not be recouped upon resale. Many of these houses will be converted to rentals, which are rarely as well maintained as owner-occupied housing. Add the fact that the houses were built with cheap materials and methods to begin with, and you see why many fringe suburbs are turning into slums, with abandoned housing and rising crime.

The good news is that there is great pent-up demand for walkable, centrally located neighborhoods in cities like Portland, Denver, Philadelphia and Chattanooga, Tenn. The transformation of suburbia can be seen in places like Arlington County, Va., Bellevue, Wash., and Pasadena, Calif., where strip malls have been bulldozed and replaced by higher-density mixed-use developments with good transit connections.

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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Unconventional Ideas » Sat 26 Nov 2011, 22:48:35

A one level house on our block in the closer in Portland, OR suburbs recently sold quite quickly. One of the selling points was a walkscore of 80 listed on the prospectus.

The McMansion peoples' fate doesn't really lead me to sadness. They were into the show off thing, keeping up with the Joneses. Now they are paying for it.

No doubt some will come to their senses.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 07:29:38

Unconventional Ideas wrote:A one level house on our block in the closer in Portland, OR suburbs recently sold quite quickly. One of the selling points was a walkscore of 80 listed on the prospectus.

The McMansion peoples' fate doesn't really lead me to sadness. They were into the show off thing, keeping up with the Joneses. Now they are paying for it.

No doubt some will come to their senses.

Oh I don't feel sorry for the McMansion types but I do worry about the average working man that moved out to the burbs under the "Drive tell you can afford it" plan and bought a tract house priced with cheap gas and a new highway as the pricing guide. Now just as he gets the mortgage paid off (The first one at least) and he is ready to retire, the value of his home collapses. If like many he refinanced a couple of times he may well be underwater on a home he has paid for three times the initial price. Even if he used the refi. money to remodel and improve the house the value of those improvements may have gone to zero. He should of blown it on trips to Vegas instead while he had the chance.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Pops » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 07:53:45

I think they've made the connection, they are way beyond it, really. The best mitigation of bad things from peak oil is eliminating the need for a personal vehicle, mixed use neighborhoods do that. Of course someone has to have the money to invest in the change.
http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/

But you are right about being underwater. I read an article that said if you include the realtor's 6% commission and a 10% down payment on a new mortgage, 50% of homes are effectively underwater - the owner doesn't have enough equity to move even if he could sell.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby FarQ3 » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 08:20:40

High density housing in the city is fine ... as long as there's plenty of food to go around! The minute that food supplies drop those in high density areas there are many more local mouths to compete with, no back yard to grow veges and they are a long way from farming areas.

I would rather be a farm hand and have some food than live close to my job and have my kids compete with the masses for food.

High density housing might start to smell a bit if we were to run so low of energy for running basics like water & sewerage.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Unconventional Ideas » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 08:23:10

Being stuck and knowing it is perhaps why so many people are trying to pretend like everything is fine, and they are intensifying their pretense with each passing day.

The good news is smart younger people aren't buying into the pretense, and seeking workable solutions that invariably don't involve homes on suburban fringes.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby pstarr » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 13:37:28

Cities grew and prospered around water transport. Rail became a steel river. We will return to cities because they still today have a direct connection to food/energy/resources in the hinterlands. The best place to be post-peak is in a small town on a river/canal and rail line in a grain growing region.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Oakley » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 14:08:07

I find it interesting that the last to develop historically is the first to go.

I suspect that as suburbia wanes that at first cities and rural areas will benefit, but as the severity of the energy crisis increases cities will also suffer. Ultimately, just as energy driven mechanism destroyed the need for farm labor, so will the end of the oil age revive the need for farm hands.

It is unlikely that the transition from an industrial society back to an agrarian society cannot be a smooth transition. The transition from agrarian to industrial was supported by excess energy reserves, but the transition back to agrarian will be thwarted by a lack of energy, making it much more a disaster.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Fishman » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 17:25:59

Suburbia will certainly struggle, but those cities dependent on government subsidies are becoming more violent and potentially unlivable. Some of suburbia may be able to adapt into small town/ villages.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby kublikhan » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 18:49:24

Hope you guys did not miss the disclosure in that article:
"Disclosure: I am the president of Locus, a coalition of real estate developers and investors and a project of Smart Growth America, which supports walkable neighborhoods and transit-oriented development."

I would take everything in that article with a grain of salt as it sounds far too much like self promotion to me.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 19:08:28

kublikhan wrote:Hope you guys did not miss the disclosure in that article:
"Disclosure: I am the president of Locus, a coalition of real estate developers and investors and a project of Smart Growth America, which supports walkable neighborhoods and transit-oriented development."

I would take everything in that article with a grain of salt as it sounds far too much like self promotion to me.

I noticed it and thought it was an honest presentation of their interest in the issue.
I take everything I read with a pinch of salt.
What struck me was their position that this transition was already well along where I would expect it to be just beginning. Some hard numbers on the population shift back into the city would be useful.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby kublikhan » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 20:38:04

If you want real data not a fluff peace like that article was, check out the US Census. You will find the reality to be more complex than the fluff. The line between suburb and city is blurring as more jobs are located farther from the inner city and population growth in the suburbs is giving the same set of problems cities have wrestled with for years: poverty, crime, etc. While gentrification has been bringing back some wealthy to city centers.

Census 2010 signals continued demographic convergence within U.S. metro areas. Both cities and suburbs grew more slowly in the 2000s than the 1990s. The combined growth rate for cities in the 100 largest metro areas dropped to a little more than half that from the prior decade.

Yet the aggregate picture obscures the continued strong relationship between city and suburban growth within metropolitan areas. Metropolitan-wide population change—increase, decrease, or stagnation—continued to set the stage for both city and suburban growth patterns. Of course, we cannot ignore the continued differences that mark American cities and suburbs—the product of more than a century of economic, sociological, and political forces. But my major takeaway from Census 2010 thus far is that cities and suburbs increasingly share common attributes, both across and within our major metro areas.

First, as somebody once said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Suburbs grew up as bedroom communities to city employment centers. Today, however, traditional downtowns account for only one in five jobs in metro areas. By contrast, more than 45 percent of metropolitan jobs now lie at least 10 miles from the downtown core—outside the Beltway, if you will. Employment decentralization blurred the traditional economic distinctions between cities and suburbs; in doing that, it helped blur their demographic distinctions as more groups settled close to where the jobs are. Among these groups were immigrants. Economic opportunities drew them to the suburbs, but so too did the social networks that proliferated in new “gateway” regions in the American South and West with little recent history of immigration—Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, and Washington, among others. In these regions, immigrants skipped cities altogether and headed straight for suburbs, pushing foreign-born numbers in suburbs well above those in cities by the mid-2000s.

Affordable housing is suburbanizing, too. A mixture of policy changes like fair housing laws and subsidies for low-income homeownership, combined with the aging of suburban infrastructure, has made suburban housing more accommodating of racial and ethnic diversity. Nearly half of all voucher holders, and more than half of all rental units priced below HUD’s Fair Market Rents, are located in suburbs. The past few years may be accelerating further economic diversification of suburbs, which in regions like Chicago are the primary locus for foreclosed homes.

We need not an exclusively city or suburban perspective on the census, but rather a metropolitan approach to managing America’s continuing demographic transformation.To conclude, there’s not only an economic imperative to think and act more metropolitan in America, but also an emerging demographic basis for doing so. The 2010 Census shows that suburbs and cities share increasingly common attributes and associated challenges.
The State of Metropolitan America: Suburbs and the 2010 Census

Areas with the fastest growth included suburbs of metropolitan areas in the South and West, such as the region around Orlando, Fla.; the "Research Triangle" area of North Carolina; the northern Virginia exurbs of Washington, D.C.; and the areas surrounding such cities as Las Vegas, Atlanta, and several cities in Texas (Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin). As in previous decades, many rural areas lost population, including much of the Great Plains and northern and central Appalachia

Within metropolitan areas, most U.S. population growth during the past century has taken place in suburban areas, rather than central cities.


Somewhere on the way back to the city, Americans got sidetracked.

Polling by the real estate advising firm RCLCO finds that 88 percent of Millenials want to live in cities. Their parents, the Baby Boomers, also express a burning desire to live in denser, less car-dependent settings. But in the past decade, many major cities saw population declines, and the overwhelming majority of population growth was in the suburbs. Methinks we may have jumped the gun on the whole collapse of the suburbs bit.

Listen, I don't mean to belabor this point. This is all just to say that the urban renaissance is not fait accompli. And that's why, in the coming months, I'll be exploring ways that we can nudge the great urban revival along. I'm going on the assumption that while Americans seem to have an ideal vision of urban living, the reality of it often fails to stack up to the fantasy. I also think that our discontent often fails to provide the motivation to change our less-than-ideal, but perfectly comfortable suburban way of living.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby AgentR11 » Sun 27 Nov 2011, 21:25:52

Polling by the real estate advising firm RCLCO finds that 88 percent of Millenials want to live in cities. Their parents, the Baby Boomers, also express a burning desire to live in denser, less car-dependent settings. But in the past decade, many major cities saw population declines, and the overwhelming majority of population growth was in the suburbs. Methinks we may have jumped the gun on the whole collapse of the suburbs bit.


This kind of subject pops up on bike forums as well. The ideal of "carless in the city" is cooler than the reality of "carless in the city". Even if you try to go carless by living in the city core, you end up either getting a car or being attached to a bus route. Meanwhile, as a cyclist, living way out from the big city core, I have every service imaginable within easy biking range; all the roads are wide, smooth, straight, and have great visibility, there's no pedestrians clogging up a path that I'm supposed to stay on. (25mph cyclist + pedestrian is a disaster waiting to happen). In short, the in-city reality of trying to be carless is really tough. And, the suburban hostility to cycling/pedestrian is much less real than the often asserted near-prohibition.

Then there are the 100+ mile trips; yes I can do a century, but I'm spent at the end. Being in the city core doesn't change the nature of these trips; you need a car. You can rent, or you can own. Renting is a pain. Owning is a pain. Pick your poison, but "carless" ends up failing sooner or later. Few are willing to give up the option on 100-200 mile range travel; even I (hating travel as I most certainly do) still have to do these from time to time.

And yes, I lived downtown before, and cycled on the cracked and broken road pavement, road the narrow, pedestrian clogged bike paths, and still did manage to put a couple thousand miles of city riding on the bike computer without dieing. I don't recommend it to anyone that isn't certifiably nuts. (if you're nuts, its a blast, but I digress...) Suitable to a 50 yr old regular business guy in from the suburbs/exurbs??? Not a chance in ****.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby FarQ3 » Mon 28 Nov 2011, 08:17:24

I don't think that cities will be nice places to be during the transition. If things don't go well (and it's increasingly looking as though they won't) there will be shortages to the extent that 'have nots' will be so desperate ... there will be extreme violence and lawlessness. Much better off in a country town where at least there remains some sense of community. Although these places will be very suspicious of strangers, maybe even violently opposed.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby dinopello » Mon 28 Nov 2011, 15:01:50

AgentR11 wrote:And yes, I lived downtown before, and cycled on the cracked and broken road pavement, road the narrow, pedestrian clogged bike paths, and still did manage to put a couple thousand miles of city riding on the bike computer without dieing. I don't recommend it to anyone that isn't certifiably nuts. (if you're nuts, its a blast, but I digress...) Suitable to a 50 yr old regular business guy in from the suburbs/exurbs??? Not a chance in ****.


I actually see a surprising nunber of business commuters by bike. But I do think they're nuts. It doesn't seem relaxing at all. I live in a walkable suburb and its just that - walkable. I am blocks from busses, heavy rail metro, and we have bike lanes but I hardly use them. Most of what I need is within a mile or less.

They have carshare (Flexcar, ZipCar) and now Bikeshare stations are cropping up everywhere around here so you needn't own a car or a bike to get the occasional need for them satistfied.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Pops » Mon 28 Nov 2011, 15:18:44

Smart growth, basically mixed-use, high density neighborhoods that combine work/shop/sleep into a small area is not a one-off idea promoted by a single company. It's the response to LA style urban sprawl after cheap energy. It's how cities grew before ICEs and zoning ordinances and the way they will inevitably be again unless the college of baloney's Mr Fusion gizmo pops out of the energy fairy's patoot.

Which is why I pulled out the link to the smart growth site.

Also, one thing to remember in looking at stats comparing 2000 and 2010, there was a huge detached home construction boom up to '06 with new development out the butt and then a huge bust after oil prices rocketed and so not too much moving at all since, so of course stats will be skewed toward growing 'burbs.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby jdmartin » Tue 29 Nov 2011, 23:08:52

I love the idea of smartgrowth and think there's a lot of future in it. Smartgrowth doesn't have to be limited to cities - there's no reason that suburbs can't be retrofitted as "mini-cities".

I have said for many, many years that the outer suburbs would one day be the slums, while the inner cities would be the valueland. That said, a lot of the inner-city revolution is more gentrification and high-living than anything else, because other than cappucino cafes and swanky restaurants there's no jobs left in the city - they've all moved to the suburbs. So you still end up needing a car, or access to really good public transportation. The idea of living in a completely walkable city is very appealing, but really unlikely for most people. Most jobs aren't even stable enough anymore to assume you'll be at it 5 years from now. And I see little point in paying huge markups to live in the city if you still have to drive to work. I can appreciate how young people and old people would be attracted to it.

It could work if the jobs moved back to the city. But you look at the bomb craters of places like Camden, Cleveland, Detroit, and you know jobs are not coming back there, especially when they can't even secure the streets. All of this applies to American cities, most of which are sad and pathetic, as opposed to the cities in most other places in the world where all commerce actually takes place.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Pops » Wed 30 Nov 2011, 09:38:48

Inhabitat.com is a cool site, I have it's feed in reader.

Here's this from a couple of years ago that's pretty straight forward:
http://www.re-burbia.com/2009/08/04/spr ... r-toolkit/
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby Serial_Worrier » Wed 30 Nov 2011, 14:19:20

jdmartin wrote:I love the idea of smartgrowth and think there's a lot of future in it. Smartgrowth doesn't have to be limited to cities - there's no reason that suburbs can't be retrofitted as "mini-cities".

I have said for many, many years that the outer suburbs would one day be the slums, while the inner cities would be the valueland. That said, a lot of the inner-city revolution is more gentrification and high-living than anything else, because other than cappucino cafes and swanky restaurants there's no jobs left in the city - they've all moved to the suburbs. So you still end up needing a car, or access to really good public transportation. The idea of living in a completely walkable city is very appealing, but really unlikely for most people. Most jobs aren't even stable enough anymore to assume you'll be at it 5 years from now. And I see little point in paying huge markups to live in the city if you still have to drive to work. I can appreciate how young people and old people would be attracted to it.

It could work if the jobs moved back to the city. But you look at the bomb craters of places like Camden, Cleveland, Detroit, and you know jobs are not coming back there, especially when they can't even secure the streets. All of this applies to American cities, most of which are sad and pathetic, as opposed to the cities in most other places in the world where all commerce actually takes place.


We're headed towards Brazil. The top 1% live in opulence and the rest of us live in slums performing menial service jobs.
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Re: The death of suburbia

Unread postby gnwk15 » Wed 07 Dec 2011, 01:15:28

For years, the American Dream has included a house in the suburbs, a white picket fence, 2.5 children and a sprawling green lawn for the golden retriever. But skyrocketing gas prices combined with record foreclosures and shifting demographics may change the immaculate face of suburbia forever.

This time last year, the national average cost of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.975 per gallon, according to AAA. Today, that same gallon averages $4.067. Fueling a car with a 16-gallon tank capacity costs approximately $65. At this price, an average commute of about 15 miles into the city every day can become financially excruciating for many.

But it isn’t merely fuel costs that are driving people back into the city. The subprime crisis has caused many to lose their homes and rendered others incapable of receiving a mortgage. Property values have fallen faster in the suburbs than in urban areas, according to The New York Times. Not only that, but demographics are beginning to work in favor of cities. Television shows such as "Friends" and "Sex and the City" have romanticized city life and many people, especially singles and childless couples, are going urban simply out of preference.

“Thirty to forty years ago, the country split 50/50 between households with children and households without children. Today it’s two-thirds without children and one-third with,” Christopher B. Leinberger, a real estate developer and visiting fellow with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., said. “The demographic projections in the future call for 88 percent of a net increase in households to be in households without children, [both] singles and couples....That’s the target market.”
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