Death of the Burbs

Markham-suburbs aerial-edit2The end of suburbia is nigh, according to Leigh Gallagher (The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving) in conversation with Jonathan O’Connell for the Washington Post:

O’Connell: Could you start by telling us why you think the suburbs are in decline?

Gallagher: The suburbs were a great idea that worked really well for a long time, but they overshot their mandate. We supersized everything in a way that led many people to live far away from where they needed to be and far away from their neighbors, and that has far-reaching implications, no pun intended. People have turned away from that kind of living. Add in the demographic forces that are reshaping our whole population, and the result is a significant shift. Census data shows that outward growth is slowing and inward growth is speeding up.

The early millennials are just getting into their mid-30s. How much do we know about whether millennials want to live in the suburbs?

That’s the billion-dollar question. All the studies show they want to live where they can walk, whether that’s the city or an urban suburb.

When I talk to home builders in the Washington area, some already recognize they are probably not going to be building anywhere near as many single-family, detached homes as in the past. But there are others who tell me: Every generation since World War II, when they became the heads of household and had children, wanted to live in single-family, detached homes on their own property, and there’s no reason to think that cycle has been broken.

Not yet. The millennials haven’t had kids yet. They’re delaying launching. But a lot of people think they’re not going to want cul-de-sac suburbia. They grew up in the back seats of cars, they know what it’s like to have to drive everywhere. They might not mind the suburbs, but they’re going to want the sort of suburb where you can walk to a cute diner…

[continues in the Washington Post]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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26 Comments on "Death of the Burbs"

  1. Rhoid Rager | Aug 5, 2013 at 9:42 am |

    This is pablum. Try reading James Kunstler’s rants. They are more truthful and biting. In fact, they will knock your fucking socks off,

  2. kowalityjesus | Aug 5, 2013 at 10:41 am |

    suburbia is lonely

    • Conspiracy Carrot | Aug 5, 2013 at 5:51 pm |

      Perhaps for you. I’m doing alright.

    • Dingbert | Aug 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm |

      “City life is millions of people being lonesome together.”


      Anywhere without hospitality is lonesome. And, considering suburbia is just city people living outside the city, there’s not going to be much difference.

      • kowalityjesus | Aug 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm |

        Yes, the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation!

        meh, I gues since I’m living in a dorm with musicians in Graz, Austria right now, I miss suburbia and nearly everywhere else like I miss a migraine. : D

  3. Jin The Ninja | Aug 5, 2013 at 10:54 am |

    “suburbs are the graveyards of the soul.”

    • Conspiracy Carrot | Aug 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm |

      I don’t know, mine’s doing okay out here.

      • Jin The Ninja | Aug 5, 2013 at 9:53 pm |

        if i had to live in a subdivision new build 2 ft from my neighbor, where every house is a different shade of neo-eclectic architecture- and am forced drive to whatever strip mall anchored by chipotles, starbucks and jc penneys serves as ‘community space’-i’d personally die a little bit everyday.

    • Dingbert | Aug 5, 2013 at 9:07 pm |

      “Cities are the abyss of the human species.”


      Let ’em both die.

      • Jin The Ninja | Aug 5, 2013 at 9:47 pm |

        i’d rather see a mixed society of urban and rural that doesn’t extropolate resources from the rural for import to the cities.

        i don’t see how the suburbs fit in in any ecological, humanist arrangement.

        • Sounds pretty good. I love Appalachia in part because there are no big cities or suburbs, just rural areas and towns. Of course, the lack of industry coupled with the decline of farming causes some serious problems.
          Something like a modern Jeffersonian democracy mixed with a little Americanized Gandhian economics is my preference.

  4. Anthony Chmielewski | Aug 5, 2013 at 11:13 am |

    I am from Baltimore City and currently live in a suburban/rural area. I prefer the wildlife out here in the sticks thank you. City living causes mental illness.

  5. “I want to kill everyone, Satan is good, Satan is our pal”

  6. Hadrian999 | Aug 5, 2013 at 1:02 pm |

    they are building too big in suburbia, very few people starting out can afford to move their. the “affordable housing for working class people/returning GIs” idea morphed into overpriced hideous mcmansions

  7. emperorreagan | Aug 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm |

    I moved to the suburbs so I could have enough land to do small scale farming. It has that upside – my house is on land that was farmland 60 years ago and not the industrial wasteland of a small city lot.

    The downside is that it’s isolating. It lacks the active social life that’s easily found in the city and the true solitude you can find in the country. It’s noisy but it feels empty.

  8. BuzzCoastin | Aug 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm |

    Der Homeland seized enough land to pull off suburbia
    China, with 4 times the population & half the habitable land
    is packing them into high rise cities lickity split
    which is as unsustainable as suburbia
    but at least in Der Homeland there is still enough stolen land to go around

  9. Swinging in his bedroom Richie won’t come out to play……

  10. Conspiracy Carrot | Aug 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm |

    Whenever someone rages against suburbia I just assume they’re an angsty 19-year-old who just moved out of suburbia & picked up their first copy of Adbusters. I grew up in the city and moved to the ‘burbs in my late teens. Suburban life, like big city life, has its ups and downs. Ups include people rarely litter, kill one another or steal my shit. Cons include not being able to find a bite past 11 pm and rednecks.

    • kowalityjesus | Aug 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm |

      social responsibility, if at all contingent on population density, is more evident in close quarters, e.g. anywhere in Europe.

      • Hadrian999 | Aug 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm |

        living in close quarters is for livestock and insects.
        try living out in a real rural setting, no police dept, no fire department, and if you need help you need a friend that will drop what he’s doing and drive a long damn way to help you, if you don’t have community out there you are good as dead

    • Rhoid Rager | Aug 5, 2013 at 7:33 pm |

      If oil prices go up, me thinks the cons might just multiply.

    • Hadrian999 | Aug 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm |

      don’t forget HOAs a major con of burbs these days

    • I started raging against Suburbs when I was moved INTO them at the age of 12. That was back in 1977, when they were worshipped as the ultimate in middle-class living.

  11. Dingbert | Aug 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm |

    I think it’s a little sad that some commenting on this conflate rural areas with suburbia. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before the former becomes the latter.

  12. THEUNSEENofNOTISH | Aug 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm |

    I see a lot of problems with suburbia arising out of the expense and distance required to travel around places. If structures were altered to make it easier and safer to walk or ride bicycles in many places, the space of suburbia could be preserved with the improvements of modern health and small business movements added in. However, in an increasingly shrinking job market, the younger generation simply cannot afford the expensive of cars, gas and distance required to travel to work, when it can be found. I think overall we need a better integration in those areas of business and residential properties and many’s resistance to that is why the suburbs are dying.

  13. Laced713 | Aug 7, 2013 at 7:02 am |

    I’m 32 have two kids my friends my age have kids.this article is way off from our viewpoint. The only reason any of us live close to anything is due to the down economy poor job market and gas and food costing too much to afford to live in the stix but it’s been discussed and most of us prefer living further away than suburbs not closer in!

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