Outer is out, inner is in

Check out the WaPo op/ed on the death of the exurb (or as the title says, “The Death of the Fringe Suburb).

The gist is this: as the housing bubble expanded, people flocked to the exurbs — the farther suburbs — where they could buy their McMansions and impress their neighbors with their huge tracts of land.

Sadly, their homes were better than their financial-planning skills, and when the bubble burst they found themselves in dire straits. (Insert “Money for Nothing” joke here.)

Result: The most expensive and desirable housing in metro areas went from being the outer ring to (nowadays) the inner — well, innerer — city.

Quoth the op/ed’s author, Christopher Leinberger, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor of practice in urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan:

Today, the most expensive housing is in the high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of the center city and inner suburbs. Some of the most expensive neighborhoods in their metropolitan areas are Capitol Hill in Seattle; Virginia Highland in Atlanta; German Village in Columbus, Ohio, and Logan Circle in Washington. Considered slums as recently as 30 years ago, they have been transformed by gentrification.

Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.

More interesting for Realtor types is Leinberger’s take on the future. This move in is here for the long haul:

Boomers want to live in a walkable urban downtown, a suburban town center or a small town, according to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors.

The millennials are just now beginning to emerge from the nest — at least those who can afford to live on their own. This coming-of-age cohort also favors urban downtowns and suburban town centers — for lifestyle reasons and the convenience of not having to own cars.

Over all, only 12 percent of future homebuyers want the drivable suburban-fringe houses that are in such oversupply, according to the Realtors survey.

And you can add the fact that cities are a lot more environmentally friendly, and more people are becoming aware of the need to think about that.

So… something to keep in mind.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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