DMI Blog

Harry Moroz

The Slowing Suburbs

The WSJ’s Conor Dougherty reports on an analysis of new Census numbers by Brookings’s William Frey showing slowing population growth in many suburban areas: suburbs in 27 of the 52 biggest metros grew more slowly between 2008 and 2009 than the previous year. In fact, in 13 metros the core city grew faster than the suburbs.

But Dougherty cautions that:

Of course, none of this means that cities are poised to gain on the suburbs long-term. Most of America lives and works in the suburbs (Chicago’s suburbs are home to 6.4 million people, twice as many as the core city) so once the job market and home prices stabilize, suburban growth is likely to follow.

Demographic prediction is treacherous, of course. But Dougherty could be right. For all the Obama administration’s successes in nudging federal policy to support more sustainable transportation options and to waste less on useless tax breaks, Washington still subsidizes expensive suburban living while highlighting suburbs as paragons of laissez faire.

Will we really note the connection between the recent movement back to cities and the popping of the housing bubble but not ensure that the mechanisms that created the bubble are dismantled? Putting a price on carbon that in turn raised the price of gasoline - something that would decrease the supply of housing in far-out locations - is an increasingly unlikely prospect in a Congress seemingly paralyzed by the sheer number of policy items they could - and seem to know they should - tackle. But the Obama administration is not blameless: whatever its economic benefits, the tax credit for homebuyers whose success it touts is consistent with the old model of subsidizing non-urban areas.

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Posted at 3:55 PM, Jun 23, 2010 in Cities
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