Suburbs aren’t, and won’t be, what they were

Welcome home–not so much! (Flickr photo by Pierre Metivier)

When it comes to the suburbs and especially the exurbs, look back to the cities.  Consider these facts:

  • Three quarters of recent college graduates and young professionals say they plan to live in an urban core even if it costs them more money than elsewhere and their living space is smaller;
  • Baby Boomers are listing their suburban homes to live near urban amenities;
  • Household size continues to diminish along with household formation;
  • The housing crisis has caused plunging building permits, undeveloped subdivisions and price increases that lag the cities;
  • The flagging economy has pushed up unemployment rates and poverty in the exurbs;
  • Real estate investors have no interest in suburban office parks and commercial real estate in more distant suburbs.

Those are not my observations, but they were pulled together by Steve Yoder of the Fiscal Times, who quotes Yale economist Robert Shiller as saying that “the heyday of the exurbs may well be behind us.”

Yoder draws his own conclusions:

So for now, exurbia may be the new inner city, a place where people who are struggling economically congregate until they can put together enough money to leave for decent paying jobs elsewhere.

Housing expert John McIlwain of the Urban Land Institute paints an even grimmer picture of the future:

There are a lot of people who say that we’re going to see more of the new ghettos out there [in the exurbs] than anywhere else.  I can see the logic of that.

I grew up in Boston’s suburbs; my toes curl, stomach clenches, eyes roll with the very idea of moving back. But I have to say that what is not good for the suburbs cannot, I think, be good for the country.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
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Charles Rutenberg Realty
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