Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Suburbs are Loved

For awhile there it appeared—to many—that most people really did want to live in the inner city rather than the suburbs, but that was just a little bit of self deception on the part of urban planners and the developers who bought into the myth.

The truth has been noted by New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Pundits, planners and urban visionaries—citing everything from changing demographics, soaring energy prices, the rise of the so-called "creative class," and the need to battle global warming—have been predicting for years that America's love affair with the suburbs will soon be over. Their voices have grown louder since the onset of the housing crisis. Suburban neighborhoods, as the Atlantic magazine put it in March 2008, would morph into "the new slums" as people trek back to dense urban spaces.

“But the great migration back to the city hasn't occurred. Over the past decade the percentage of Americans living in suburbs and single-family homes has increased. Meanwhile, demographer Wendell Cox's analysis of census figures show that a much-celebrated rise in the percentage of multifamily housing peaked at 40% of all new housing permits in 2008, and it has since fallen to below 20% of the total, slightly lower than in 2000.

“Housing prices in and around the nation's urban cores is clear evidence that the back-to-the-city movement is wishful thinking. Despite cheerleading from individuals such as University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida, and Carole Coletta, president of CEOs for Cities and the Urban Land Institute, this movement has crashed in ways that match—and in some cases exceed—the losses suffered in suburban and even exurban locations. Condos in particular are a bellwether: Downtown areas, stuffed with new condos, have suffered some of the worst housing busts in the nation.

“Take Miami, once a poster child for urban revitalization. According to National Association of Realtors data, the median condominium price in the Miami metropolitan area has dropped 75% from its 2007 peak, far worse than 50% decline suffered in the market for single family homes.

“Then there's Los Angeles. Over the last year, according to the real estate website, single-family home prices in the Los Angeles region have rebounded by a modest 10%. But the downtown condo market has lost over 18% of its value. Many ambitious new projects, like Eli Broad's grandiose Grand Avenue Development, remain on long-term hold.

“The story in downtown Las Vegas is massive overbuilding and vacancies. The Review Journal recently reported a nearly 21-year supply of unsold condominium units. MGM City Center developer Larry Murren stated this spring that he wished he had built half as many units. Mr. Murren cites a seminar on mixed-use development—a commonplace event in many cities over the past few years—as sparking his overenthusiasm. He's not the only developer who has admitted being misled.

“Behind the condo bust is a simple error: people's stated preferences. Virtually every survey of opinion, including a 2004 poll co-sponsored by Smart Growth America, a group dedicated to promoting urban density, found that roughly 13% of Americans prefer to live in an urban environment while 33% prefer suburbs, and another 18% like exurbs. These patterns have been fairly consistent over the last several decades.”