There’s been a lot of talk lately about the death of the American suburb.
The 2010 census showed a decline in sprawl, according to USA Today. The population in “exurbs” went down in many areas of the country. The report cited high gas prices, the foreclosure crisis and unemployment, which pushes people to big job centers.
Meanwhile, young people want to live in cities, according to a new survey. Generation Y is more likely to rent and less likely to drive. Millennials like convenience and being connected to neighbors. Having grown up in suburban cul de sacs, they want adventure.
“The heyday of exurbs may well be behind us,” Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller said. Shiller, co-creator of a Standard & Poor’s housing index, is perhaps best known for identifying the risks of a U.S. housing bubble before it actually burst in 2006-2007. Examining the current market, he believes America is now at a turning point, shifting away from faraway suburbs to cities amid persistently high gasoline prices.
Demographic changes also play a role: They include young singles increasingly delaying marriage and children, and thus more apt to rent, and a graying population that in its golden years may prefer closer-in, walkable urban centers.
“Suburban housing prices may not recover in our lifetime,” Shiller said, calling the development of suburbs since 1950 “unusual,” enabled only by the rise of the automobile and the nation’s highway system.
“With the bursting of the bubble, we may be discovering the pleasures of the city and the advantages of renting, investing our money not in a single house but in a diversified portfolio,” he said.
A return to cities could have a big effect on the way we shop and get around. Some predict (pray for) the decline of the shopping mall.
Is there any evidence of suburban decline in Rochester? Not really. Monroe County’s population went up 1.2 percent over the last decade. But Ontario County’s population increased 7.7 percent. That’s evidence of sprawl.
However, there is evidence of urban migration. The City of Rochester’s population began to rebound in the latter half of the decade. Downtown’s population increased 11.5 percent, though poor city neighborhoods emptied out.
Monroe County is so compact, it’s comparable to other communities’ entire cities. Commute times and housing costs are not huge issues. But it will be interesting if people move closer to the core seeking a more urban experience. Do you think this will happen? Maybe it’s happening already.