Could Recession Lead to Death of Sprawl?


Ted Smalley Bowen brings us this article on what may be the death of sprawl.  The numbers from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies show that cities have taken a hit, but it isn’t the knockout that suburbs and exurbs are experiencing.  Many outer areas have simply stopped growing, whereas cities are still growing slowly, in some cases faster than they have in recent years.  The economic crisis seems to have accelerated the trend away from suburbs and back to cities.  John Norquist, who arguably may be biased, says that this is a permanent change.  I would have to agree.  Although economics are forcing people to downsize in the short term, increasing gas prices and other elements that will only get worse in the future will keep them from going back in the future.  In addition to economic factors, demographics are also encouraging the move back to cities.  Baby boomers have become empty nesters, and they want smaller, more manageable nests, closer to everyday needs.  At the same time, Millenials that grew up in the suburbs but had all of their fun in cities (like me, my wife and my sister) have a desire to live a more vibrant life closer to the center.  Bowen cites changes in Phoenix, focusing on it’s new light rail line and connections to Tucson and Flagstaff, as a great example of this change.  Even in suburban western cities like Phoenix, the future for cities looks bright.

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