Suburban Growth: Ending or Taking a Break?

Some housing trend spotters believe that America’s love affair with sprawling suburbs has ended.

“What we’re already seeing is these new, very cheaply made suburbs showing how little resilience they have to economic fluctuations. I see them becoming not only more desperate, I see them becoming potentially nonviable,” says Jeff Speck, an urban planner and co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.

The growth rate in outer-suburban counties fell to 1.6 percent in the year ending July 2008, down from 2.3 percent two years earlier, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.

“I don’t think there’s as much will to build in distant suburbs as there was a generation ago,” says Robert Lang, a director at Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute. “I think it’s not as fashionable.”

But Lang cautions against writing suburbia’s obituary too quickly, pointing out that Americans like big yards and privacy that comes with them. He suggests that development of an economical and convenient transportation option like electric cars could revitalize the suburban dream.

Source: Reuters News, Andy Sullivan (04/10/2009)