Suburbs in decline?

awm03February 22, 2008

Now, that we've all plunked $30,000+ into our kitchens, what do you all make of this article in The Atlantic about suburbs showing signs of dying off because of demographics, the subprime mess, & the Boomer trend of moving back to urban areas?

The Next Slum?

Seems like I've been reading about the death of the American Suburb for years now. Frankly, I rather like the peace & quiet of one's own back yard garden, the driveway hockey games, the pot-luck barbecues over at the neighbor's.

Kinda funny to imagine a home on a cul-de-sac with busted windows, ripped wiring, broken in doors...and a granite countertop and a Tapmaster.

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Since one important measure of economic health is new home starts, the suburbs, like the cities, have to decline, so people will want new homes and the economy can stay strong!?

Currently, the inner suburbs, especially here in the Baltimore/Washington area, are in terrible shape. Downtown Baltimore is just one boarded up house after another, and now the County is tearing down run down apartment complexes that look no better than the abandoned inner city housing.

I don't think they'll decline like US cities, but the price of homes will certainly drop, maybe a lot, so a more diverse population will live in these suburbs. Sadly, the quality of the building in these developments is pretty awful, so I expect they will start falling apart, and probably be abandoned because they are too expensive to maintain.

As a boomer, I'd never move into the city, I'm a suburban girl, I've never lived in a city and I don't plan to live in a city in the future.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 12:19PM
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That's interesting, momj47, about Baltimore's inner suburbs being in bad shape. I live in la-la land -- Fairfield County, CT, so don't have a good feel for what's going on in the real America. I keep reading in the NY Times about the revival of NYC's inner suburbs (Yonkers, New Rochelle, & White Plains even) because of their urban ammenities at non-urban prices, but to my eye, those places are still touch & go.

I can't quite understand suburb bashing. Any place you live is only as good as the community that the inhabitants create. If your suburban neighbors work to build the community, such as volunteering in the schools, the sports leagues, the scouts, supporting the library, churches, temples, then enough people bond through achieving common goals (besides just plain getting to know each other) to form strong ties. What's so sterile about that? So we don't have Broadway or cutting edge art exhibits in my small town. Big deal. I've got the Bedford Falls experience where my community can rally to help somebody who needs help.

Anyway, I still think most people prefer light, air & space over crowded living conditions. The suburbs will always have that advantage.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 1:52PM
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Just my opinion, but I think that if employment in the urban center is strong, the close-in suburbs will remain attractive locations. If businesses move out to the more-remote suburbs, then you'll get decay with age in the inner suburbs. I love a more urban area myself, but won't give up good schools, trees or too much safety to get it.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 6:41PM
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LET EM all move to the cities!! I'll have the lakes all to myself!! WHAT A CONCEPT!! :-)

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 8:54AM
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Oh no you won't, I'll be moving to one of those lakes myself in a few years. I can't wait to retire.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2008 at 9:22AM
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mj47 I don't know about DC so I bow to your expertise but I work downtown Baltimore and my DH works in Canton. We are amazed at the new construction we see on the way to work. Renovated row homes in Canton sell for 600K and up more on the water. There are new construction condos being built on Maryland Ave. Quite $$.
My neighborhood is a county suburb- not very far out from the city line and housing is pretty steady here -not many for sale. Schools are excellent and keep the neighborhood great.
Of course some neighborhoods have always been bad areas and have houses that are boarded up. And the city system is horrible.
Bill, I am with you give me a lake house. Thats what we hope for someday- My DH loves to fish and we want a place that we can walk without crossing roads to swim our 2 goldens. nothing fancy. a place to canoe. maybe a new kitchen to redo. Sue

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 11:01AM
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Yes, there is a lot of building and re-gentrification going on in Baltimore, especially near Johns Hopkins downtown campus, the East Baltimore Development Corp. has purchased and demolished many, many blocks of homes. A lot of people were displaced. Most areas of the city probably won't benefit from the re-gentrification.

As a public health nurse in Baltimore, I visit the areas that aren't being rebuilt or regentrified, people living in abandoned houses, using plywood and cement blocks for doors.

In many parts of Baltimore, families bought homes 40, 50, even 60 years ago, during and after WWII. These people had good jobs in the industries in Baltimore - the steel mill, the ship yard, the mills and factories all over the city. These industries no longer exist in Baltimore, and without jobs, house after house, on block after block is abandoned. Occupied homes on these blocks have become essentially worthless, unless they are near the few areas that are starting to be rebuilt.

Once the city let that first abandoned house sit, the decline started.

A hundred or so years ago, the city was the place to be, and new communities in Baltimore County asked to be annexed by the City so they could have good schools, police, fire, etc. No more. I think, eventually, the city will have to become part of Baltimore County, it won't be able to survive on it's own, without a middle class.

The inner suburbs (inside the Beltway) in Baltimore County, as well as Montgomery and Prince Georges County are suffering the same fate as more and more people move out of the city. Apartment and townhouse communities built during and after WWII are the slums of the suburbs.

Local governments have made no effort to stop the decline, until it's too late, and then they tear buildings down. The housing built to replace these communities can rarely be afforded by the residents who were displaced, so they move farther and farther away, and the cycle begins again.

I, too, live in the suburbs, in a stable neighborhood, with good schools, no crime and wonderful neighbors. The city has no appeal to me.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 12:41PM
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Sue, you don't even have to be right on the water. I live in town, right on the main drag. I've got boatramps to 7 different lakes or ponds within 15 minutes of my house (8, if you include Brandy Pond, which is actualy an extension of Long Lake). The closest is about 3 minutes from here, right in the center of town-- has a nice little park right next to the boat ramp, and everything. In addition, I don't have to worry about lake levels when the spring thaw comes or we get alot of rain. I also don't have to worry about unbelieveable home prices, association fees and rules, or PROPERTY TAXES each year!!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 6:43PM
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Bill, I think you are in an ideal spot! I have seen your photos. We would love to live in a place like that. Are dogs allowed to swim in those lakes/ponds? Allowed off leash in the park ?
Who needs association busy bodies and rules. Sue

    Bookmark   February 24, 2008 at 10:14PM
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Are dogs allowed to swim in those lakes/ponds?

Man, you HAVE been "citified!! :-) They can swim anywhere they please!! As for in the park, it depends on the time of day, and how many people are there.

Here's pics of where I live, taken today:

Got SNOW?? :-)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 12:03AM
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Ahhh we are so there... No snow here :(
And yes we have been citified, or actually suburbified! But perhaps there is hope for us yet! We do take our dogs swimming in a lake in Columbia(which is just about the most restricted area you could imagine- I think they have covenants for their covenants!) Easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission so one day we will find out.
You live in a beautiful area. I read your post to my husband about the launching ramps- green with envy. Wait till I show him your fishing pics. Sue

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 8:59PM
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Sue-- have him check out this thread:

Here is a link that might be useful: This year's version of It's not just about the Fishing

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 7:52AM
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Bill, Acck! I purposely haven't shown him that thread yet! U wanna make him cry?? We can't move yet!! We are outdoorsy type people and would love to live somewhere like that. Maybe after 2 more years of college tuition... Hey maybe she will run away from college and join the circus!!
thanks for sharing your photos. I think these guys would love living in your area ! Sue

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 1:12PM
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Sweet pups!! They're on my short list of favorite dogs-- Goldens, Elkhounds, and German Shepards. :-) I had a golden who just passed away about 5 years ago after staying with us for about 14 years. She was an absolutely beautiful spirit. :-)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 1:44PM
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For those of you who might be interested-- The park by the boat ramp I spoke of-- I just found out this evening from the local news that it's only a small part of a much larger park that'll be soon turned over to the city of Bridgton. Check out the link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Pondicherry Park

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 6:01PM
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There's also the flipside to the coin, living up here:

Here is a link that might be useful: Shovel your...... ROOF?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 11:06PM
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