The End of the Suburbs
Where the American Dream Is MovingBook - 2013
After the U.S. housing bubble burst, no part of our country felt the pain more than the suburbs. Headlines screamed of foreclosed homes, displaced families, and an upsurge of crime in the once bucolic subdivisions that for so long symbolized the American Dream. Even five years later, conventional wisdom seems to be that this is all temporary - that once the economy rights itself and home prices return to pre-recession levels, we'll go back to the lives we led before.
But that's not true.
According to Leigh Gallagher, the recession was simply a catalyst for a much larger trend. The suburbs may have represented the dominant pattern of housing and population growth in the United States for more than half a century, but powerful social, economic, and demographic forces - along with the suburbs' poor design to begin with - are converging to render them unnecessary, and even undesirable, for an ever-increasing number of Americans.
Consider some of the forces at work-
The nuclear family is no longer the norm- U.S. marriage and birth rates are steadily declining, while the number of single-person households is skyrocketing. The main selling points of suburban life - good schools and family-friendly lifestyles - matter less.
We want out of our cars- As the price of oil continues to rise and commuting becomes more expensive, once-affordable homes on the suburban fringe are no longer a bargain - and we are driving less, in general, for the first time since the invention of the automobile. This is especially true among teenagers, who are delaying getting their driver's licenses, and young adults, who are opting to live in more walkable, action-packed communities.
Cities are booming- Once abandoned by the wealthy, cities are experiencing a renaissance, especially among younger generations and even among families with young children. At the same time, suburbs across the country have had to confront never-before-seen rates of poverty and crime.
Not all suburbs are going to vanish, of course, but the trends are undeniable. In this deeply reported work, Gallagher introduces us to a lively cast of characters, including the charismatic leader of the anti-sprawl movement, a mild-mannered Minnesotan who quit his job to convice the world that the suburbs are a financial Ponzi scheme, and a grade-school teacher whose commute entailed leaving home at four a.m. and sleeping under her desk in her classroom. Blending powerful data with on-the-ground reporting, Gallagher takes us inside the hundreds of new communities springing up around the country - such as shopping malls that are being converted into downtown-like neighborhoods and dense pedestrian-friendly urban centers that are more reminiscent of small towns than sprawling modern-day suburbia.
Offering a fascinating and timely portrait of our changing landscape, Gallagher reveals irrefutable reversals taking place - and demonstrates why the post-cul-de-sac future is not a bleak one but a better one. The end of the suburbs, as Gallagher foretells it, will mean stronger, happier, and healthier communities for all of us.
'The most convincing book yet on the lifestyle changes coming to our immediate future.' Andres Duany, coauthor of Suburban Nation
'This book is a steel fist in a velvet glove. Beneath Leigh Gallagher's smooth, elegant prose there is a methodical smashing of the suburban paradigm. When all is done, a few shards remain - but only because she is scrupulously fair. This story of rise and ruin avoids the usual storm of statistics - nor is it a tale told with apocalyptic glee. The End of the Suburbs is the most convincing book yet on the lifestyle changes coming to our immediate future.' Andres Duany, founding partner of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company and coauthor of Suburban Nation