Suburbia’s March to Oblivion New York Times February 23, 2008
THE mortgage crisis has put “for sale” signs in front of houses across the country — including so-called McMansions — the large, expensive, often tasteless homes that have taken up so much suburban space over the last couple of decades.
But frantic selling is just the beginning, according to Christopher B. Leinberger, a professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan. “Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading” thro'gh cul-de-sac suburbia, he writes in the March issue of The Atlantic. And it is not just because of the mortgage mess. A “structural change” is occurring in the housing market — a “major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work,” moving social problems out of the city and into the suburban fringe.
The result, he says, could be that low-density suburbs “may become what inner cities became in the 1960’s and 1970’s — slums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay.”
Meanwhile, he writes, demand for “urban living” will continue apace. Although the mortgage squeeze may slow development of lofts and condominiums in the central cities and “walkable” towns and suburbs, “it will surely continue.”
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