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End of Suburbia?
Old 03-14-2009, 12:50 PM   #1
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End of Suburbia?

Here's an interesting article from Yahoo! Finance:

http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home...Suburbia-R-I-P

I'm seeing some of this here in the DC area. The "McMansion" developments in the outer suburbs were hard hit by the housing crisis while closer in neighborhoods and DC are doing much better. There seems to be more of a trend for walkable suburban centers located close to employment and public transportation. I've also noticed a rising trend for singles, young couples and retirees to opt for a more urban lifestyle.
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Old 03-14-2009, 12:57 PM   #2
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One by one it feels like the "new prosperities" enjoyed in the aftermath of WW2 and its postwar economic bubble are starting to unravel into unsustainability.

Suburbia.
Wage increases that beat inflation.
Pensions.
Stock markets that return north of 10% per year on average.
Costly annual vacations.
The nuclear family.
Middle-class retirement.

One by one, all of these things appear to be going the way of the dodo as we come to the realization that these widespread middle-class and "upwardly mobile" expectations have really only been continued since the 1970s by constantly increasing leverage and debt, and now that house of cards has collapsed.

Welcome to the first generation in history where grandparents live far better and with more affluence than their grandkids probably will.
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Old 03-14-2009, 12:58 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Purron View Post
Here's an interesting article from Yahoo! Finance:

http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home...Suburbia-R-I-P

I'm seeing some of this here in the DC area. The "McMansion" developments in the outer suburbs were hard hit by the housing crisis while closer in neighborhoods and DC are doing much better. There seems to be more of a trend for walkable suburban centers located close to employment and public transportation. I've also noticed a rising trend for singles, young couples and retirees to opt for a more urban lifestyle.
I think this has to happen. The question is, how do we reconcile urban living with the desire for safe neighborhoods?

Most people with even one toe in the reality pool can see that few middle class people will likely want to live where gang violence can break out at any time.

However, we can't all afford high security high-rise apartments.

Ha
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Old 03-14-2009, 01:23 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Purron View Post
I'm seeing some of this here in the DC area. The "McMansion" developments in the outer suburbs were hard hit by the housing crisis while closer in neighborhoods and DC are doing much better.
I wouldn't be too quick to count out suburbia. Maybe the day of McMansion burbs is over (thankfully), but it all comes down to affordability. Right now there's an oversupply of lower cost units in the DC burbs, fueled by the subprime problem, but those folks who couldn't afford the increased payments can afford DC prices even less.

What I see in the longer term is increased attractiveness for urban settings for those who can afford it, and a bounce back in the lower priced burbs but, again, for those who can afford the lower price without defaulting.

In the meantime the transition will be tough for the burbs, with a lot of empty living spaces and corresponding increase in crime.
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Old 03-14-2009, 01:40 PM   #5
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I think surburbia will change. Instead of large homes on large lots, we will see more of an emphasis on development clustered around employment centers and transportation. Fairfax County's long range plans call for growth in this direction. Of course, Fairfax County is approaching full development with much of the remaining undeveloped land restricted by zoning laws to protect the watershed and preserve open space.

What will have to change for this to become successful is for people to accept higher density living. Many of us have spent most of our lives in single family homes with decent sized yards around them. Townhomes and condos may be difficult for some people to adjust to.
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Old 03-14-2009, 01:42 PM   #6
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Townhomes and condos may be difficult for some people to adjust to.
I'd love townhouse living if I had very quiet neighbors -- no more yard work! The problem is, it seems that whenever I shared walls, my neighbors were anything BUT quiet.
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Old 03-14-2009, 01:47 PM   #7
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I think surburbia will change. Instead of large homes on large lots, we will see more of an emphasis on development clustered around employment centers and transportation. Fairfax County's long range plans call for growth in this direction. Of course, Fairfax County is approaching full development with much of the remaining undeveloped land restricted by zoning laws to protect the watershed and preserve open space.

What will have to change for this to become successful is for people to accept higher density living. Many of us have spent most of our lives in single family homes with decent sized yards around them. Townhomes and condos may be difficult for some people to adjust to.
I think a nice NoVa or MD condo or townhouse in easy walking distance to a Metro station would be a type of heaven. Wonderful place to be young, and a wonderful place to grow old.

I believe that yards, etc have acually been obsolete for some time. With both Mom and Dad working long hours, who needs yard work?

Yesterday was a nice sunny day. I went out my door about noon. The groundskeeper was renewing the plantings around the door and in front of my building. When I had a house, that would have been me. Instead of strolling out to enjoy the sunshine, I would have been struggling to keep my place up to snuff.

Ha
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Old 03-14-2009, 02:00 PM   #8
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I think a nice NoVa or MD condo or townhouse in easy walking distance to a Metro station would be a type of heaven. Wonderful place to be young, and a wonderful place to grow old.

I believe that yards, etc have acually been obsolete for some time. With both Mom and Dad working long hours, who needs yard work?

Ha
My 78 year old mom loves her condo in NoVa. She's within a few miles of several grocery stores, many nice restaurants, a major mall, and a hospital. If she gets to the point of not being able to drive, groceries can be delivered and everything she needs is a short cab ride away. For now, she tools around town in her Jaguar with no worries She also likes being close to her daughter
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Old 03-14-2009, 04:42 PM   #9
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Welcome to the first generation in history where grandparents live far better and with more affluence than their grandkids probably will.
That's what was said about Gen X in the early 90s. It didn't come to pass (but there's still time).
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Old 03-14-2009, 04:45 PM   #10
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That's what was said about Gen X in the early 90s. It didn't come to pass (but there's still time).
True. And I am a GenXer, albeit just barely past "late Boomer." But as much as we talked about the national debt burying the future back then, it really looks like it's time to pay the piper here. I don't think the pain can be deferred any more.
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Old 03-15-2009, 07:51 AM   #11
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Yesterday was a nice sunny day. I went out my door about noon. The groundskeeper was renewing the plantings around the door and in front of my building. When I had a house, that would have been me. Instead of strolling out to enjoy the sunshine, I would have been struggling to keep my place up to snuff.

Ha
I don't find it all that much of a bother. Yesterday I put down lawn fertilizer, and including getting the spreader out of the shed, spreading the stuff, and washing and putting away the spreader, it took all of about 30 minutes. When the grass is growing it takes about an hour and twenty minutes to mow, or I can do the front one day and the back the next.

Plantings, once planted, aren't all that much work to keep up either.

The big maintenance item so far has been the screened-in back porch and small deck. There are thirty screens that come out when washing the porch and sealing the wood. But we use it a lot in nice weather so the investment in time is worthwhile to us.

Like ziggy29, when I shared walls the neighbors were not quiet. We will move to an apartment or townhouse only if forced to at gunpoint. Or if we lose our hearing I suppose it wouldn't matter.
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Old 03-15-2009, 08:14 AM   #12
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I'd love townhouse living if I had very quiet neighbors -- no more yard work! The problem is, it seems that whenever I shared walls, my neighbors were anything BUT quiet.
+1!
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Old 03-15-2009, 08:55 AM   #13
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One by one it feels like the "new prosperities" enjoyed in the aftermath of WW2 and its postwar economic bubble are starting to unravel into unsustainability.

Suburbia.
Wage increases that beat inflation.
Pensions.
Stock markets that return north of 10% per year on average.
Costly annual vacations.
The nuclear family.
Middle-class retirement.

One by one, all of these things appear to be going the way of the dodo as we come to the realization that these widespread middle-class and "upwardly mobile" expectations have really only been continued since the 1970s by constantly increasing leverage and debt, and now that house of cards has collapsed.

Welcome to the first generation in history where grandparents live far better and with more affluence than their grandkids probably will.
I agree with your assessment and I hope we are on this path now. My fear is that it will take several years or a few more collapses for the mainstream to see it, but I think your prediction is inevitable...
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Old 03-15-2009, 09:46 AM   #14
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One step would be to modify the zoning rules, allowing clean business in the 'burbs. It's ridiculous not to be able to walk to the grocery store, the cleaners, etc.
A personal gripe is useless front yards. Since they are not private, they are not used at all. They isolate you from the neighbors and are a mowing and gardening chore.
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Old 03-15-2009, 10:57 AM   #15
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But, but, but, Los Angeles is "76 suburbs in search of a downtown"

I thought great conurbations were our future. Sure looked like it was heading that way.
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Old 03-15-2009, 11:42 AM   #16
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Death of suburbia is a bit premature. There are many kinds of suburbia. I can see the far-flung commuter overnighting places having problems, but not the places with a sense of community and at least 25% of the population working in the community.

Also folks tend to live in different places at different stages of their lives. Young folks just out of college tend to want a "happening" place with easy commute to bars and concerts. Then they have children and they tend to want a decent school district, a cul-de-sac, a yard with room for a play structure or pool. Then the kids grow up and it's back to a happening place with a golf course and nearby shopping.

I'll stereotype print journalists here: not many fit in the "parents-with-school-age-children" category and they write from their own perspective which colors their output. OTOH, on-air news journalists do fit the category. In our area, one of the local stations actually moved their entire studio to suburbia out of near downtown.

I have lived and worked in suburbia forever, but within trivial commute to downtown of a major (millions of people) city all my life. I have everything I need: health care, jobs, education, libraries, internet, concerts, shopping without going on the interstate. And the airport is between me and downtown, so I can go anywhere in the world without worry.

I predict next year there will be a "Death of the Cities" article by the same people.
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Old 03-15-2009, 12:11 PM   #17
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I don't find it all that much of a bother. Yesterday I put down lawn fertilizer, and including getting the spreader out of the shed, spreading the stuff, and washing and putting away the spreader, it took all of about 30 minutes. When the grass is growing it takes about an hour and twenty minutes to mow, or I can do the front one day and the back the next.

Plantings, once planted, aren't all that much work to keep up either.

The big maintenance item so far has been the screened-in back porch and small deck. There are thirty screens that come out when washing the porch and sealing the wood. But we use it a lot in nice weather so the investment in time is worthwhile to us.

Like ziggy29, when I shared walls the neighbors were not quiet. We will move to an apartment or townhouse only if forced to at gunpoint. Or if we lose our hearing I suppose it wouldn't matter.
It's a matter of luck and building management as to the neighbors, or building construction which can be very quiet due to design or materials.

Regarding what one wants to spend time on, or how much time, it's a matter also of design, size, and personal taste. I am a special case because I did yard work for 30 years but never liked it. Around and around with a lawnmower just never did it for me. At the same time I have always enjoyed exploring a city, but during my many years isolated in the suburbs or country I didn't get much chance. From my POV going to the city even every weekend which I never managed is vastly different from living there.

In the city of Seattle housing prices and rents have always been much more resistant to falls than the suburbs. This may not apply to Bellevue-Redmond which dances to the Microsoft drummer.

The reason is steady demand. On a smaller scale, it's like Manhatten vs Queens.

But suburbs will survive, until some way is found to curb city crime. I don't see that coming any time soon, so the suburbs likely need not worry. In Seattle demographics can add $200,000 to a condo price. and it isn't due to school district, since they all suck.

Ha
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Old 03-15-2009, 06:53 PM   #18
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Sounds like a lot of people thinking that everybody likes (or should like) what they do. There are many options, and thank God for it. Personally I prefer suburbs, I like having a front yard and doing gardening and making my home look nice and homey. I don't think these moves to urbanize Suburbia will happen in the next 20 years, at least because of inertia. The comments about being close in to DC are on the nose, nobody starting out can afford it. Most can't even afford to live in the suburbs that are reached by the subway system. It's a nice dream to imagine a safe, clean and friendly inner city, but when you wake up (if you're lucky) with a knot on your head and your wallet gone you'll know it was just a dream.

I like being in the city, but I prefer to live outside. Different strokes for different folks. But I can guarantee you I read this same story 20 years ago. I'm willing to bet I'll read it again in 20 more years, if I make it that long.
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Old 03-15-2009, 07:35 PM   #19
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I grew up in classic suburbia very near to NYC. It was great in the 60s and 70s, but the area became downright dangerous to live in during the late 70s.
So I moved upstate for college and decided to stay here.
I'm at the extreme end of the spectrum - I live out in the country and even though I get bored, I would cringe to live in a development, much less a multi-unit building. I like having an open field across the street and swamp and open woods behind me. My lot is only 100' wide, but some wonderful cedar hedges and a pine tree line give me complete privacy.
I know I will someday have to live in a condo or apartment complex. It will be a major bummer to do that.
As always...different strokes...
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Old 03-15-2009, 07:40 PM   #20
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Somewhere I read some info on crime rates indicating suburbs and rural areas often have higher crime rates than urban areas. Can't put my paws on it right now so perhaps someone can help out with this.

I have lived in the suburbs for most of my life so it's familiar and "safe" feeling to me. DH would love to move out into the boondocks but I'd like to be closer to town. This is one of those things couples compromise over.

Part of me thinks being closer in would be better as we get older and less able to physically deal with a larger home and yard. I also think about being close to health care and services should one or both of us need this. The other part is with DH and yearns for that place far away from traffic, noise and people - kinda off the grid.

This economy has temporarily derailed our plans to move which might be a blessing in the long run. More time to contemplate where we want to live for the years after work.
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