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Page added on June 30, 2008

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Today’s suburbs, tomorrow’s slums?

‘Peak oil’ theorists say house prices outside cities will collapse as the cost of gas rises, forcing people to choose urban living


According to some doomsday scenarios, spiking gas prices could turn the cul-de-sacs and two-car garages that surround North America’s cities – built over the past 60 years and designed for the convenience of people with cars – into tomorrow’s slums.


The predictions for the most part come from subscribers to the theory of “peak oil,” which holds that crude prices will shoot permanently upward as global demand outstrips dwindling supply, ruining the economy. But their predictions are getting a second look now, as suburbanites, especially in the United States, grumble at the rising price of a fill-up.


Some warn the cost of gasoline will make the most sprawling U.S. suburbs so unattractive that housing values there will collapse, forcing many people to abandon their homes for urban areas better served by public transit and leaving only squatters, criminals and those who can’t afford to leave the outskirts.


Could it happen in Canada? Many experts doubt that gas prices, while bound to rise, will shoot up so suddenly as to strangle the suburbs, which do not sprawl to the extent that many do in the U.S. But it is clear that a shift away from the traditional suburb is also under way in Canada. Suburban municipal governments are scrambling to retrofit sprawl with denser development and better public transit to keep people moving, responding to concerns not just about the rising price of gas, but also about carbon emissions and traffic congestion.


Globe and Mail



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