The American Suburb, 1947-2008

Some sad news tonight, at least for some folks out there: The American Suburb has passed away. It was only 61 years old. No one expected that it would die so young, but then no one ever sees it coming, do they? The cause of death was clogged arteries -- but mainly a horrible case of gas.

The New York Times broke the story before anyone else:

Houses are sitting on the market longer than in years past. “The pool of buyers is diminishing,” said Jace Glick, an agent with Re/Max Alliance in Parker, Colo., next to Elizabeth.

Juanita Johnson and her husband, both retired Denver schoolteachers, moved here last August, after three decades in the city and a few years in the mountains. They bought a four-bedroom house for $415,000.

Last winter, they spent $3,000 on propane for heat, she said. Suddenly, this seemed like a place to flee. “We’d sell if we could, but we’d lose our shirt,” Ms. Johnson said. Recently she counted 15 sale signs. One home nearby is listed below $400,000.

“I was so glad to get out of the city, the pollution the traffic, the crime,” she said. Now, the suburbs seem mean. “I wouldn’t do this again.”

Read the whole obituary. People can't afford the gasoline or the heating oil, and many are desperate to move back to a more urban environment. House values are plummeting, especially in the exurbs -- and even in Philly, which had seemed to be relatively immune from the housing slump. For a Baby Boomer, it's a shocking thing to see. We grew up taught to think that suburbs were like a part of human evolution.

I never thought the American Suburb would be the one to go first.

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