The next slum?

The Suburbs

If gasoline and heating costs continue to rise, typcial suburban living may not be much of a bargain in the future. And as more Americans move into urban communities, families may find that some of the suburbs’ other big advantages—better schools and safer communities—have eroded.

As conventional suburban lifestyles fall out of fashion and walkable urban alternatives proliferate, what will happen to the obsolete suburbs? Are they the slums of the future?

In Seattle, we already have more gang activity in the suburbs than in the inner-city.

Christopher B. Leinberger in The Atlantic discusses these trends in The Next Slum. Many of the inner-city neighborhoods that began their decline in the 1960s consisted of sturdily built, turn-of-the-century homes, some even considered mansions, by today’s standards. By comparison, modern suburban houses, even high-end McMansions, are cheaply built. Hollow doors and wallboard are less durable than solid-oak doors and lath-and-plaster walls. The plywood floors that lurk under wood veneers or carpeting tend to break up and warp as the glue that holds the wood together dries out; asphalt-shingle roofs typically need replacing after 10 years. Many recently built houses take what structural integrity they have from drywall—their thin wooden frames are too flimsy to hold the houses up.

The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.

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One comment

  1. Tim and Julie Harris

    Great post..
    SO true!
    The other factor playing into this is that the next wave of buyers…baby boomer kids etc wont want to live like their folks do. Many will demand new green homes. Modern is making an enormous come back as well.
    No doubt that the fields of track homes will become ghost towns.