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The Housing Bubble and Urban Design


A McMansion under construction in Texas. Photo by Dean Terry.

In the last few months major magazines and papers have written provocative pieces about the housing bubble in the United States and what it means for the future of the American City. Below, you can find the most interesting pieces:

  • The Next Slum? Christopher Leinberger argues that a profound transformation is taking place: dense urban areas are seeing a renaissance while suburbs and exurbs are showing signs of decay. Why? “Sprawling, large-lot suburbs become less attractive as they become more densely built, but urban areas—especially those well served by public transit—become more appealing as they are filled in and built up.”
  • There Goes the Neighborhood Matthew Yglesias looks at neighborhoods effected most by the housing bubble and finds that exurbs and fringe cities – where mass transit is non-existent – are taking the biggest hit.
  • Slowdown Hits Towns at Outskirts of Texas Boom Reporting for the New York Times, Leslie Eaton talks about how one bedroom community on the fringe of Dallas is struggling to stay afoot as housing values plummet.
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  • Developers up here are getting edgy about what the US situation means for Canada. Atlanta sounds like a good warning to cities to promote infill development before expanding infrastructure such as roads, storm, sewer, water and cables out to these far flung burbs.

    For the bigger cities in Canada, I think things will continue as usual. But in rural areas and smaller centres the shift to a locally sustainable economy, (ie one that doesn’t rely on the US for export potential) is essential.

  • This summer, I was flying into the Atlanta airport, and on the outskirts of the city were numerous developments where all critical infrastructure had been laid – roads, power lines, sewer systems (well, i couldn’t see those but I assumed they were already in) – but there was absolutely no sign of any housing being built. It was quite spooky to see development after development just sitting there incomplete.

  • Thanks for these links. As an observer living in rural BC, seeing the demand for lumber dropping and mills closing on this side of the border, the housing bubble looks like the precursor to all the bigger problems of global food and water shortages, peak oil and global warming. Many people will be affected by the bubble, houses lost to lenders, jobs lost to slumps in demand, but ultimately the nations can limp away from this one.

    The next ones will likely hit harder. There typically aren’t riots when people lose their houses to the bank, however, when the trucks stop delivering food to the supermarkets there’ll be trouble brewing.