An article announcing a new report on the continued resilency of the suburbs and the suburban way of life is posted to New Geography.
“In recent years a powerful current of academic, business, and political opinion has suggested the demise of the classic American dream of home ownership. The basis for this conclusion rests upon a series of demographic, economic and environmental assumptions that, it is widely suggested, make the single-family house and homeownership increasingly irrelevant for most Americans.
“These opinions — which we refer to as ‘retro-urbanist’ — gained public credence with the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007. The widespread media reports of foreclosed housing in suburban tracts, particularly in the exurban reaches of major metropolitan areas, led to widespread reports of the “death of suburbia” and the imminent rise of a new, urban-centric “generation rent.”
“Yet despite this growing “consensus” about the future of housing and home ownership, our analysis of longer-term demographic trends and consumer preferences suggests that the “dream,” although often deferred, remains relevant. We see this in the strength of suburbs, as well as in the growth of the post-war “suburbanized cities” that generally have been the fastest growing regions of the country. These trends are notable in the three key demographic groups that will largely define the American future: aging boomers, immigrants, and the emerging millennial generation.
“This does not mean that suburbia, or home construction patterns, will not change in the coming decades. Higher energy prices, for example, could necessitate shorter commutes, even with automobile fuel efficiency improvements. The emerging concentration of employment centers could help bring this about by improving job housing balance. There is a need to fully make use of the high speed digital communication that can promote both dispersed and home-based work.
“For these and other reasons McKinsey & Company, among others, has noted that meeting environmental challenges does not require the kind of radical alteration of lifestyles and aspirations so widely promoted in the media, academia, and among some real estate interests. Equally important, there has been little consideration of the profound economic and social benefits of both home ownership and low to medium density living. These include, on the economic side, the huge impact on employment from home construction and the ancillary industries associated with household upkeep and improvement.
“More important still may be the social benefits. Most serious studies have shown that lower-density, homeowner-oriented communities are more socially cohesive in terms of volunteerism, neighborly relations, and church attendance, than denser, renter-oriented communities. Suburban and lower density urban neighborhoods are particularly critical for the growth of families and the raising of children, an increasingly important factor in a ‘post-familial’ era of plunging birthrates.”