Fringe Suburbs American Style: RIP

Brookings fellow Christopher Leinburger has an op-ed in the New York Times claiming that the fringe suburbs are dead.

For too long, we over-invested in the wrong places. Those retail centers and subdivisions will never be worth what they cost to build. We have to stop throwing good money after bad. It is time to instead build what the market wants: mixed-income, walkable cities and suburbs that will support the knowledge economy, promote environmental sustainability and create jobs.

Oh, well, there’s that “create jobs” thing again. Otherwise he would make sense, except that he doesn’t reckon with the stickiness of real estate.

The reason places like New Orleans after Katrina get rebuilt is not because it makes economic sense. The reason is because many people are stuck with property and mortgages in the vulnerable zone. Since a house and its property is a major investment for an individual (and typically a large financial liability as well) it is difficult to escape, once the mistake has been made. America has trapped itself in inhumane car-centric suburbs. They increasingly tend to be shabby as well as inhumane. But people can’t move out without somebody else moving in, and that’s the long and short of it.



  1. More! On this topic! Right here! The Urban Institute's Rolf Pendall wrote a piece this week outlining three reasons why "fringe" suburbs will not fade so quickly, and might even remain stable.

    The post is here:

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