THE FUTURE OF AMERICA’S SUBURBS LOOKS INFINITE

Urbanlight_Suburbs© CAN STOCK PHOTO / URBANLIGHT

Surely you are familiar with all of the “trend stories” in books, magazines and newspapers about the return of the central city and the permanent, irreversible decline of the suburbs. They started about 10 years ago, and continue today. As my longtime readers and audiences know, I have been debunking them the whole time.

Nine years ago (in 2008), I wrote both in my newsletter GrowthStrategies and on NewGeography.com (“The future of suburbs? Suburbs are the future”) that not only was the decline of suburbs a false trend, but that in fact that suburbs were the past, present AND future.

As I wrote there:

I could be clever and say that predictions of the demise of suburbs are premature, but in fact they are just plain apocalyptic and absurd. Suburbs are the nexus of American life, have been for decades, and will certainly remain so (because, like, where else are we going to put the next 100 million Americans?). Suburbs are where the majority of Americans today, and in the future, live, work, shop, create, consume, recreate, educate and, perhaps most importantly, procreate.

Three years ago (2014), again in GrowthStrategies, I excerpted an article by Wendell Cox, “The Myth of Rising Cities, Declining Suburbs.” Sure, urban cores are in recovery, but that is a side trend in the greater scheme of things.

Further confirmation arrives in a new book, Infinite Suburbia (Berger, Kotkin, Guzman).

As the editors write:

Just a decade ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, suburbia’s future seemed perilous, with experts claiming that many suburban tracks were about to become “the next slums.” The head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development proclaimed that “sprawl” was now doomed, and people were “headed back to the city.”

This story reflected strong revivals of many core cities, and deep-seated pain in many suburban markets. Yet today, less than a decade later, as we argue in the new book that we co-edited, “Infinite Suburbia,” the periphery remains the dominant, and fastest growing, part of the American landscape.

This is not just occurring in the United States. In many other countries, as NYU’s Solly Angel has pointed out, growth inevitably means “spreading out” toward the periphery, with lower densities, where housing is often cheaper, and, in many cases, families find a better option than those presented by even the most dynamic core cities.

Also see Kotkin’s and Berger’s “The urban revival is an urban myth, and the suburbs are surging.”

Yeah, so how did I know what was the false trend and what was the real trend? Well, being both a historian and a futurist (and I find few are), I seek not to extrapolate from current trends so much as to discern what has been true and will likely remain so. I think a perusal of my work on growth-strategies.net will demonstrate the perspicacity of this approach.

Allow me to bring my insight into your organization’s planning and envisioning process. The first step in planning for the future is to get an accurate assessment of the environment in which you will be competing!

You can reach me at roger@growth-strategies.net.

Thanks and regards,

Roger