How amusing it is to see the suburbs getting attacked yet again. It usually comes from leftist elites that look down their noses at anything so middle class and bourgeois as the suburbs. References to the suburbs by such folks range from condescension to outright ridicule. They would have it that only lower life forms want what the suburbs have: open space, better schools, etc.
The latest attack came from the direction of the New York Times, in an article called "The Death of the Fringe Suburb." In it, Christopher B. Leinberger, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of practice in urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan, argues:
DRIVE through any number of outer-ring suburbs in America, and you’ll see boarded-up and vacant strip malls, surrounded by vast seas of empty parking spaces. These forlorn monuments to the real estate crash are not going to come back to life, even when the economy recovers. And that’s because the demand for the housing that once supported commercial activity in many exurbs isn’t coming back, either.
By now, nearly five years after the housing crash, most Americans understand that a mortgage meltdown was the catalyst for the Great Recession, facilitated by underregulation of finance and reckless risk-taking. Less understood is the divergence between center cities and inner-ring suburbs on one hand, and the suburban fringe on the other.
It was predominantly the collapse of the car-dependent suburban fringe that caused the mortgage collapse.
Wow. Not financial institutions shennagans or the federal regs that pushed banks into making sub-par loans or the other stuff that we've been told? Never mind the short sales and foreclosures in the cities.
Leinberger's assertion is ludicrous on its face. For those yearning for a more detailed response, turn to Joel Kotkin, executive editor of NewGeography.com and is a distinguished presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University, and an adjunct fellow of the Legatum Institute in London. In his response appearing in Forbes and NewGeography, he says:
Perhaps no theology more grips the nation’s mainstream media — and the planning community — more than the notion of inevitable suburban decline. The Obama administration’s housing secretary, Shaun Donavan, recently claimed, “We’ve reached the limits of suburban development: People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.”
Yet repeating a mantra incessantly does not make it true. Indeed, any analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census would make perfectly clear that rather than heading for density, Americans are voting with their feet in the opposite direction: toward the outer sections of the metropolis and to smaller, less dense cities. During the 2000s, the Census shows, just 8.6% of the population growth in metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people took place in the core cities; the rest took place in the suburbs. That 8.6% represents a decline from the 1990s, when the figure was 15.4%.
Also of interest to Chicagoans, he finds:
In Chicago, the suburban trend was even greater. The outer suburbs and exurbs gained over a half million people while the inner suburbs stagnated and the urban core, the Windy City, lost some 200, 000 people.
Whatever the numbers say, and he's got plenty more, he's right on one thing: The anti-suburban mindset is a theology that predicts--in unvarnished hope--the demise of the suburbs. As a holder of a master's degree in urban affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I've seen it myself. It's a shame that some branches of social science have less to do with actual science than with a religious-like fervor.
Hat tip to Newsalert.