Suburbs or City

That has always been the major choice for where to live over the past several decades in America and significant majorities choose the suburbs (see our report on this) but that doesn’t stop the true believers in urban living—which is appropriate for those who enjoy the often chaotic environment cities provide to their residents—from advocating for their particular interest.

This article from the Sacramento Bee leans heavily that way, but does include some balance.

An excerpt.

“Blame it on Ozzie and Harriet, or Hollywood, but California’s culture seems inextricably bound up with the boundless American dream of suburbia. Judging from the glossy real estate brochures still selling spacious villas and oversize homes, it seems as though success, for many, remains the fantasy of driving down a wide, palm-tree-lined boulevard among the big lawns and mansions of Beverly Hills, just like the character in Woody Allen’s famous scene in “Annie Hall.”

“This latest burst of the housing bubble, however, has exposed the dark underside of the suburban dream – with its cascading foreclosures, shuttered malls and shopping centers – on an enormous scale. In California, as well as in Arizona, Florida and Nevada, vast numbers of tract houses, with swimming pools under perpetually sunny skies, have turned, suddenly, as one Realtor put it, “into entire neighborhoods under water.”…

“So, once the market recovers, what will housing and other development look like, in California and other states? Are big developers shifting away from building giant subdivisions in undeveloped land, catering to a growing interest in urban lifestyles? Or, as some warn, will there be a return to leapfrog, “sprawl” development as usual?

“Nearly three years since the recession was pronounced officially over, U.S.census statistics suggest that the housing market is not returning to the patterns of the past.

“As the housing industry recovers from the worst economy in decades, it’s building rental apartments, multi-family and smaller housing in cities and denser suburbs rather than in exurban areas.

“Where the action is now,” says Mike McKeever, director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, “is in building walkable neighborhoods, and in filling in vacant lands in the suburbs.”…

“But reports of suburbia’s demise may be premature, says Joel Kotkin, a professor of urban development at Chapman University in Orange and author of “The Next Hundred Million.” He predicts that, in the coming population boom, Americans will still seek out conventional single-family homes in lower-cost subdivisions – and still embrace auto commuting.

“Surveys of housing preferences consistently show that if given the choice, most Americans, particularly families, will still opt for a place with a spot of land and a little breathing room,” writes Kotkin, who predicts that the huge millennial generation – those born after 1980 – will eventually turn to the suburbs once they grow out of the “short-lived appeal” of living in a city as they marry and raise families. He cites surveys that 80 percent of Americans prefer suburban living.

“People like their large suburban homes, and, as long as gas prices don’t rise too much, they’ll stay there, housing experts in the Sacramento region agree. “A lot of people enjoy the vibrancy of the downtown areas,” says Paquin, “but I’m not convinced that California– and the nation – are going to abandon the suburbs. When I talk to buyers and agents, I still find a strong demand for conventional suburban homes.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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