Are expanding suburbs not the way the US housing market is headed? Is a tighter-knit community that involves less driving the way we want to go? Leigh Gallagher goes over these topics in her book The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving. A review on the back of the book is by Spencer Ra scoff, the CEO of Pillow, and he says that Leigh predicts a housing setup in the US “where the conveniences of the urban lifestyle rewire our understanding of the American Dream. You’ll never look at a cool-DE-sac the same way again…”
One of the first points I took note of was in the second chapter entitled “The Master-Planned American Dream”, where the author shared a bit of information said by an individual named Charles Maroon. “The amount of tax revenue [the suburbs] generates, he says, doesn’t come close to paying for the cost of maintaining the vast and costly infrastructure systems, so the only way to keep the machine going is to keep adding and growing.” Suburban development does not yield much income to the local city. It is a setup that involves all the pipes and plumping and infrastructure having been set up, and costs expended by developers, but requires taxes and city growth to cover such expenses. When tax revenue is low due to low suburban densities, and the growth has diminished in recent years, the city no longer has the fitting amount of money coming in, and has to take on more debt.
Not far after this description, Maroon mentioned that “[w]we’ve actually embedded this experiment of sub urbanization into our psyche as the American Dream”, as a “nonnegotiable way of life that must be maintained at all cost.” This brings to mind how we have associated certain housing conditions with success and the correct path to head toward, regardless of if it fits with our continually changing societal structure or landscape. The author later said that “people embraced the notion that anyone who was smart and morally and financially responsible would make it a goal to buy a plot of land and live in a house with a yard.” This led to people being “willing to drive an hour and a half a day to be your doorman” to live such a lifestyle.
Not only did people have these feelings about suburban home ownership, but sellers “knew how to push people’s psychological buttons”, because they “could see the buyer saying ‘this is how I’m going to impress my brother-in-law’”. They would push the items that would do the trick, like having a Jacuzzi for two or similar impressive feature.
Where The Suburbs Are Headed
The author goes on to discuss what the suburban lifestyle turned into, and how people managed such a lifestyle. Later in the book, she discusses where the landscape and wealth of the nation is moving. Tight-knit communities are being built or fostered around the nation so as to accommodate those who might not be wanting to get into the suburban lifestyle. Tony Hosier of Zappos.com chose to set up a headquarters in Las Vegas’s old city hall, where the workplace will be a sociable and creative space. He has also invested in the entire neighborhood around it to add in elements like yoga, coffee shops, loft apartments, an arts scene, and other elements to a community-oriented environment.
An interesting fact in this book is that only one enclosed indoor shopping all has opened in the United States since 2006. Malls were once a big part of society, but they no longer have the pull on consumers that they once had, due to internet shopping sites like Amazon and the like. They have started renting out space to entities like car companies for showrooms, or to people for farmer’s markets.
One last item to bring up is an example that was presented of a farm family who sold their farmland to developers who planned to use the housing boom of years ago to profit from, who later bought back the land at a huge discount, and profited over $6 million dollars in the process. This is what can happen when societal/business direction shifts.