America Reurbanizing: Wall Street Journal sees more exurbs becoming economic laggards

Reports of formerly halcyon exurban subdivisions becoming troubled centers of foreclosure and decline is a man-bites-dog story that keeps biting — unfortunately so for the throngs who traded long daily drives for long mortgages on big houses.

The venerable Wall Street Journal has the latest installment, with reporter Conor Dougherty focusing on renting emerging as a dominant paradigm in some locations. While other have chronicled how energy price volatility and no-downpayment mortgages brought initial turbulence to exurban markets, Dougherty is more focused on how rental economies and physical isolation cloud their long-term prospects, writing:

Now, as the housing bust and recession has turned the exurbs from engines of growth to economic laggards, many of these families have the worst of both worlds. They are still on the fringes but have no equity. In many cases the amenities they hoped would follow -- new shopping centers, movie theatres -- have ceased construction or opened with only a few stores. Government projects like new schools and parks have also been delayed as budgets get cut and population growth has slowed.

Dougherty also quotes Chris Leinberger, the visiting Brookings fellow and Option of Urbanism author known for predictions that some exurbs could become slums. "What is happening on the urban fringe is similar to the urban decay that plagued cities after World War II," says Leinberger. "Single-family homes and townhouses in cities were broken into rental units. Now, we're seeing that phenomenon move out to the fringe."

Continues the story:

More than three million homes have either been lost to foreclosure or a foreclosure-related sale between 2006 and 2008, according to Moody's Economy.com. And the decline in home prices and concentration of foreclosures is generally worse in outer-lying communities than in the central city or closer-in suburbs.

Thearticle is accompanied by some great photos from Plano, IL by Sally Ryan (thumbnail via WSJ).

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