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The ‘Burbs Will Survive

The indispensable Joel Kotkin recently wrote a new piece about the future of suburbs, and his commentary paints a very clear picture of why, despite its eulogizers, suburban life will live on and even thrive in the coming decades:

All 15 of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas of the past decade—led by places like Las Vegas, Raleigh, Phoenix, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth—are sprawling and have low-density cores. Metropolitan areas with far denser cores, such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, tended to display below-average growth.

Despite an economic slowdown that might make single-family homes more difficult for some to attain, there are a number of other factors keeping people away from the commute-free urban centers.

Most importantly, as Kotkin puts it, “the much heralded dawn of ‘peak oil’ appears to be about as imminent as a balanced federal budget.” Vast new reserves in (shale) oil and natural gas mean commuters will have a cheap way to commute to their jobs for decades to come. The freedom of commuting will no doubt outweigh the environmental cost of driving and keep many families out of crowded urban centers and in homes with backyards and garages for their cars.

Millenials are not sticking around in the urban center, either, or at least at the rate some analysts predicted. As Kotkin notes, even though a large chunk of millenials currently reside in apartments and flats in the city centers, especially, of New York and San Francisco, an overwhelming number of them have set their sights on an eventual move out. Raising a family is still easiest where there is open space and better schools.

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