The end of the suburb?

Housing value statistics released yesterday showed that for the first time, the value of homes dropped in every one of the U.S. metropolitan districts surveyed. According to the Case Schiller Index (Play with numbers here), home sales prices dropped another 2.2% in April.

The silver lining is that’s the lowest rate of decline since last December. The gray cloud is that’s 17 months of decline out of the last 18, and a 20% decline in that time. The sale prices are now what they were in April 2003.

You can probably guess what the absolute worst housing market in the country is right now (hint: It rhymes with Detroit).

Everything is somehow connected in the economy and what the mortgage crisis started, perhaps the energy — is it too early to call it a crisis? — “thing” puts asunder.

The New York Times today has an interesting story about life on the distant suburbs.

Across the nation, the realization is taking hold that rising energy prices are less a momentary blip than a change with lasting consequences. The shift to costlier fuel is threatening to slow the decades-old migration away from cities, while exacerbating the housing downturn by diminishing the appeal of larger homes set far from urban jobs.

In Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Minneapolis, homes beyond the urban core have been falling in value faster than those within, according to an analysis by Moody’s

This is the part where my city slicker friends begin snickering. The average gasoline bill on the outer fringes of metropolitan areas is close to $4,000.

Is this the end of urban sprawl? What if it is? How would it affect city (or at least closer-in) metro area living?

  • Asimov

    Caves of Steel?

  • Alison

    I would suspect that this isn’t the demise of the outer ring, but a pause in growth. Eventually, the population of the city will increase enough to force more growth. Additionally, we’ll adapt to the new energy reality. Whether we will use mass transit, new energy technologies, or get used to the cost of gas is uncertain. But we’ll colonize the next ring someday. Look at cities like Chicago. It has continued to grow, such that most people in the -outer-outer rings don’t go downtown every day.

  • bsimon

    The issue isn’t necessarily ‘sprawl’ per se, but that people are living so far from their jobs. As job centers move out from the urban core & commutes to the exurbs become more reasonable, new exurbs will appear – just like, as Alison notes, places like Chicago.

  • I have never had a job in MPLS or St Paul. I have in 20+ jobs always had ring to ring commutes.

  • Mary

    Need necessitates invention: ten+ person bicycles.

  • Bob Collins

    You know, I tried saving gas by riding my bike over the last few weekends, the 9 miles it takes me to get to the South St. Paul Airport.

    I felt good about the estimated $3.50 I calculated I saved on each round-trip by not taking my car. Then I realized I bought two bottles of Gatorade once I got there at $2 each.

    Back to the drawing board.

  • c

    /Need necessitates invention: ten+ person bicycles/

    yep and the guy in seat number ten doesn’t have to peddle!!!

    until some other guy that sits on a board somewhere and gets fatter everyday he sits on the board decides to wire all the seats of the bike with an electrical wire and the wire creates an electrical shock when the pedal which is also connected to the seat is not being pedalled. another word for this is called conservative inspiration or plain old cruelty.

  • c

    /Is this the end of urban sprawl? /

    I hope so-the sprawl is such a waste-there are plenty of empty houses and vacated shopping malls already.

  • c

    hey bob how come you are not biking to work?

  • To state the obvious, riding the bike is about more than the money you save on gas: It’s less wear on your car, it’s more exercise for you, it’s less pollution in the air, etc.

    I know you know that, Bob. Just sayin’. 😉

  • Mary

    You could make a one time investment on a platupus water pack, and then wouldn’t need to buy gatorade. However, I have no idea what those things run for.

  • c

    I had to google that one-platypus water pack-45 smackeroonies for that one. That would be 23 bottles of gaterade. The choice would be totally up to you Bob, fuel for your car or fuel for your body.

  • Being a carbon based unit myself, biking to work isn’t zero carbon. On the other hand, the more often I do it, the more efficient I get. This is not something you can say about your average car.

    As for the greater issue, I’ve had many friends have to commute from the inner core, or nothern suburbs, to Eden Prarie for tech jobs in that area. As has been said, the employment centers will migrate out of the existing dense urban core to new areas.

    Transit investment will still take time to feed those new job centers with service, though. What we have for public transit now is still pretty hub-and-spoke. Something the size of either of the downtowns is big enough to drive major investments like commuter rail, but unless a hypothetical brand-new business park in Lakeville really employs 30,000 people, it will still be supplied by busses.

  • Bob Collins

    My route is a troubling and painful one that needs to be rewarded with the saving of money. I come off Woodbury, down the bluff… across the Wakota Bridge, past the godawful smells of Hardman, and then back up the bluff to the airport.

    I will probably be found — toes up — on the route fairly soon. And when I go, it would be helpful if someone would say, “hey, at least he saved a couple of bucks.”

    Another dream dashed.

    As for biking to work, I still haven’t quite figured out the hygiene factor yet. Plus the cargo. I need to carry a laptop and, presumably, a change of clothes.

  • c



  • Bob Collins

    Well, tell you what: If it’s pay-by-the-letter, you can leave out the whole “friend of the environment” part.

  • Steph

    I used to bike to work everyday when my family lived/rented in NE Mpls (biking was faster than the bus). However my husband’s drive to Hastings was a minimum of 1 hour.

    We bought a house outside of Prescott WI, have an amazing view of the Mississippi and love living in the country. My co-workers think I live on the other side of the world, but my windshield time is about the same as the people commuting from Plymouth or Eden Prairie.

    I hear constantly about living in the exurbs, but what about all those people sitting on I94 on Fridays going “up north” We have friends that make a 3 hour commute (one-way) every weekend. When I get home on Friday, I am already out of town- Plus I only have to maintain one house.

  • Adam

    How will it effect city living? One only has to look to Chicago. In the 10 short years I lived there, a lot changed, much of it fueled by gentrification:

    Surburbanites and their amenities moved back into the city. Unique mom and pop stores were replaced by huge national chains. Today condos line the boulevards five stories tall; many face their backs to the street and feature tall gates with “safe” common areas inside. Public street parking was zoned so only local residents could legally park. Smaller side roads were blocked into cul de sacs forcing one to endure long backups on the main drag. Traffic came to a standstill 24/7 in 2000. Longstanding music venues and bars were closed due to pressure from new residents. What unique charms were there in 1990 are now long gone.

    It is coming here already (ref. the CVS superstore planned for the Almsted’s market in Linden Hills). It creeps in slowly, almost unnoticably. But then one day you wake up and can’t help but notice that your city looks a lot like Anytown, USA.


  • Lily

    Hey, not all the jobs are in the City. My spouse does work in St. Paul, but takes the BUS from Shoreview to downtown St. Paul. I am a telecommuter. There are still many good reasons to live out of the central cities, including less crime, better schools, and bigger/more energy efficient houses.

    I believe that the burbs are here to stay and biking is not the only solution!

  • Joanna

    According to the theory of urban sprawl this is expected. Growth work its way out from the city followed later by decay moving through the ring and followed again by growth. This would explain the growth back in the downtown areas of Minneapolis. Decay won’t reach these regions for a while, but slower growth has.

    My husband and I are actually grateful for the housing slump because we have begun to think about buying a house.