I came across this on CNN.com:
Instead, they are looking for what Leinberger calls “walkable urbanism” — both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything — from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters.
The so-called New Urbanism movement emerged in the mid-90s and has been steadily gaining momentum, especially with rising energy costs, environmental concerns and health problems associated with what Leinberger calls “drivable suburbanism” — a low-density built environment plan that emerged around the end of the World War II and has been the dominant design in the U.S. ever since.
Yep. We’ve been seeing some of this happening here in Peoria, too. And, generally, I happen to think that this is a positive trend. There’s something a little too sterile about suburban living, or at least the way that we’ve practiced it here in America.
However, this comes with its own price:
Yet Nelson also estimates that in 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes that will not be left vacant in a suburban wasteland but instead occupied by lower classes who have been driven out of their once affordable inner-city apartments and houses.
The so-called McMansion, he said, will become the new multi-family home for the poor.
“What is going to happen is lower and lower-middle income families squeezed out of downtown and glamorous suburban locations are going to be pushed economically into these McMansions at the suburban fringe,” said Nelson. “There will probably be 10 people living in one house.”
In Shaun Yandell’s neighborhood, this has already started to happen. Houses once filled with single families are now rented out by low-income tenants. Yandell speculates that they’re coming from nearby Sacramento, where the downtown is undergoing substantial gentrification, or perhaps from some other area where prices have gotten too high. He isn’t really sure.
So, yeah, what about them poor folk that used to live in the urban cores? Where are they going to live?
We’re seeing some of that here, too. My neighborhood is poised to be a part of the ongoing urban renewal in Peoria, which means that real estate prices in University East are pretty high, compared to what they were just a few years ago. This is going to make it more difficult for working-class families to be able to live here.
Sure, this is really just a mirror development of the previous migration of the poor to the urban cores. However, there’s at least one significant difference. The urban centers actually had generally well-built buildings. For example, my home started its existence as a single-family dwelling, was divided up into three separate apartments, and then was returned to being a single-family dwelling by the time that we bought it. It’s a solidly constructed house.
The McMansions of the suburbs, though, are not so well built. The quality of materials and construction simply isn’t as good as the older homes. As the working class moves into the suburbs, are they also going to be trapped in rapidly decaying buildings?
And where will they work? If you live in town, at least you can use mass transit or hoof it yourself. If you’re out in the ‘burbs, your options are limited. After all, the suburbs only work as long as those who live there have automobiles.
Now, I say this as one who really enjoys the thought of living in the proposed Renaissance Park area. My idea of a good night is hanging out at One World Eats or Water Street Wines, Cafe and Coffee on the riverfront, both of which are the results of the sort of urban renewal that we’re talking about. Personally, I like the idea of living in a bustling urban area, filled with arts and music and coffee houses and restaurants, all within walking distance of my house. That sounds fantastic!
And yet, I have to raise the question: who are we displacing? Are we forcing the working poor into another migration, simply because we want to have our beautiful urban centers?
Or is there another way?
These are real questions. I don’t have answers. But I think that the time is rapidly approaching where we need to begin thinking about how to answer them.