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Stranded Suburbs - HUGE foreclosure rates

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This sounds like an established rural or semi-rural area.

 

As you say, as the cost of driving increases, prices in such places might well plummet as people who have to work in town can no longer afford the commute.

 

If you can become part of the local community and can make a living these could be good, as well as cheap. The important thing is that some real community remains, with local shops, school etc. and no estates with half the houses unoccupied.

 

Somewhere near a market town with a railway (or even waterway) would be good.

 

One or two good dogs are great for keeping trouble away. I've heard that geese make excellent alarms and burglars hate them. :D

 

(I'm thinking post peak oil when only the rich will be able to drive much.)

 

Maybe you should think about following JH Kunstler to Saratoga Springs, or other small cities in Upper State New York:

http://www.greenenergyinvestors.com/index.php?showtopic=3259

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"In Stockton, Calif., 2006 buyers now owe a median of nearly $171,000 more than their homes are worth. In Salinas, Calif., 2006 buyers now have median negative equity of $161,000, and in Merced, the figure is nearly $160,000.

 

Broader impact

A plethora of sellers taking losses can have a chilling effect on people's lives, says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

 

People don't want to sell at a loss, so they put off their plans, whether it's a move for a better job opportunity elsewhere or trading up to a larger home.

 

"That will delay the [market correction]," said Baker. "It takes time for people to recognize that [these losses] are real."

 

A quick turnaround is not likely. More than $200 billion in adjustable rate mortgages are scheduled to reset during the second half of 2008, according to the National Association of Realtors, and loans of all types defaulting at high rates. There is also about 11 months of inventory at the current rate of sales.

 

"With $3.9 million unsold homes on the market, prices will have to come down even more before the market stabilizes," said Zillow's Humphries

 

/see: http://money.cnn.com/2008/08/13/real_estat...osses/index.htm

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That really brings it home. The whoile thing is so sad and so senseless, even down to the tiny details like perfectly good household items going to landfill just because their owners can't afford a place to keep them and nobody can figure out a distribution system to pass them on to someone who needs them.

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MELTDOWN CONTINUES...

 

1016bizhousingwebht6.gif

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Home Prices Seem Far From Bottom

 

In hard-hit areas like California, Florida and Arizona, the grim calculus is the same: More and more homes are going up for sale, but fewer and fewer people are willing or able to buy them.

 

Adding to the worries nationwide are rising unemployment, falling wages and escalating mortgage rates — all of which will reduce the already diminished pool of would-be buyers.

 

“The No. 1 thing that drives housing values is incomes,” said Todd Sinai, an associate professor of real estate at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “When incomes fall, demand for housing falls

. . .

As of June, 2.8 percent of homes previously occupied by an owner were vacant. Nearly 1 in 10 rentals was without a tenant. Both numbers are near their highest levels since 1956, the earliest year for which the Census Bureau has such data.

 

At the same time, the number of people who are losing jobs or seeing their incomes decline is rising. The unemployment rate has climbed to 6.1 percent, from 4.4 percent at the end of 2007, and wages for those who still have a job have barely kept up with inflation.

. . .

Colleen Pestana, a real estate agent in Orange County in California, said many people losing their homes in Southern California used to work at mortgage and real estate companies. Many of them bet heavily on real estate by upgrading to bigger houses every few years. Now, many are losing their homes.

 

At the same time, Ms. Pestana said, her clients who are looking to buy are having a harder time lining up financing. One of her clients recently had to give up on a home after the lender that had offered a pre-approved loan changed its mind — a frequent occurrence, according to real estate agents and mortgage brokers

 

 

/MORE: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/16/business...housing.html?em

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Kunstler.com's "Eyesore of the Month"

eyesore_200810.jpg

Behold the Ghost of Halloween Future!

The rural byways of America are littered with little raised ranches and "Cape Cod" specials from that strange moment in American history when the working classes were well-paid and enjoyed limitless supplies of cheap gasoline and heating oil. Farmers sold off little out-parcels of road frontage here, there, and everywhere, and the rural landscape became semi-suburbanized, even in the faraway backwaters. People thought nothing of a 100-mile-a-day commute when gas was 38 cents a gallon. Now, history is sweeping away this mode of existence. These things will not occupy the landscape very long. Eventually, they will be stripped of even their marginally useful components until nothing is left but the foundations. This one has been decrepitating only a few years.

 

/see: http://kunstler.com/eyesore.html

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Housing Series: The Outer Ring Suburbs

Regional News Stories: Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Last night, North Olmsted's City Council ok'd legislation that strengthens building codes and gives inspectors more power to enforce those rules. The law is part of the suburb's efforts to keep a growing number of bank-owned and foreclosed houses from becoming blights in the neighborhoods. In part three of our week long series, ideastream's Mhari Saito reports that even Cuyahoga County's outer ring suburbs are feeling the stress from vacant houses left by the foreclosure crisis.

 

The Foreclosure Crisis: From Bad to Really, Really Bad

The Sound of Ideas: Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The foreclosure crisis is sort of like a horror film for economic development types: just when you think you know how bad it is, it gets worse. As Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis says, "You're talking about dealing with a problem that really nobody has had to deal with before. You're talking about thousands of properties being dumped into a market." This week, ideastream®'s Mhari Saito is filing daily reports on previously untold angles of the sub-prime mess. She joins us along with others to talk about the latest fall-out: lowering property values plans to cut city services, and an underground economy trading in blighted properties. Join the conversation, Wednesday morning at 9 on 90.3.

 

http://www.wcpn.org/index.php/WCPN/highlight/12379/

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People are starting to get it - Unconnected Suburbs are a HUGE problem for the USA

Light Rail can be an answer for some areas

 

(1)

Bailout Will Try to Save Suburbs, But Can't

United States Bailout Citiwire Government / Politics Housing Suburbs

Posted by: Nate Berg

 

12 October 2008 - 4:00am

 

Despite the $700 billion financial bailout plan, the suburbs will continue to lose population and value, according to Peter Katz. He says it's time for the government to prevent suburban development that is only doomed to fail.

 

"The pattern across the continent is fairly consistent: Dwellings within walkable neighborhoods, close to transit, shopping and places of entertainment, are holding their own in terms of price and value."

 

"By contrast, the future appears far bleaker for the endless rows of foreclosed homes out on the urban fringes — the 'buy ’til you qualify' subdivisions located half a gas tank away from most everywhere. Christopher Leinberger, in his Atlantic article 'The Next Slum,' says there are clear signals that such places 'will become magnets for poverty, crime and social dysfunction.'"

 

"Maybe it’s time, even as the billions of bailout dollars flow, for official Washington to get tough. It’s emerging as lender of last resort, asset manager for the wounded American taxpayer, assuming the responsibility for thousands of toxic mortgages on property that more diligent local planners might never have allowed to be built. So why could Washington not advocate — maybe even require as a price for the potential subsidies and loan insurance it may offer — compliance with planning rules aimed at promoting more economically robust, resource-efficient communities?"

 

/see: http://www.planetizen.com/node/35540

 

(2)

Light Rail Brings Housing Values Up in Denver

Colorado Community / Economic Development Denver Home Values Housing Light Rail The Denver Post Transit Oriented Development Transportation

Posted by: Nate Berg / 3 November 2008 - 6:00am

 

While home values in the rest of the region decline, homes near Denver's light rail system have experienced an increase in values over the past two years.

 

"Homes near light-rail stations along the southeast line, which opened in November 2006, have increased by an average of nearly 4 percent over the past two years, according to an analysis by Your Castle Real Estate. But the rest of the Denver market declined an average of 7.5 percent."

 

"The closer a home is to the station, the more its value increases, according to the Your Castle analysis. Homes less than a half-mile from a station increased an average of 17.6 percent, while those 1 1/2 to 2 miles away increased just 0.1 percent on average. The data varied widely among stations, however."

 

"Under its FasTracks program, the Regional Transportation District plans to create six new commuter-rail and light-rail corridors and extend three existing corridors by 2017, potentially creating other pockets where values are driven by proximity to rail."

 

"In other markets with rail lines, single-family home values have increased anywhere from 2 percent in San Diego to 32 percent in St. Louis, according to data gathered by the Regional Transit District."

 

/see: http://www.planetizen.com/node/35854

 

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(i plan to listen to this podcast):

 

Why Housing Prices Fall More Sharply in the 'Burbs

United States House Prices Housing NPR Suburbs

Posted by: Nate Berg

 

6 July 2008 - 4:00am

This segment from NPR looks at what's behind the trend of house prices falling more sharply outside of cities.

 

"In some parts of the country, house prices are dropping faster outside cities rather than inside them. It could be because migration to America's fastest growing areas has slowed in the past year."

 

"Co-host Ari Shapiro talks to William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, about the housing markets that are cooling fastest, and why."

 

Full Story: Home Prices Drop More Steeply Outside Cities

Source: NPR, July 3, 2008

see: http://www.planetizen.com/node/33835

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Obama's infrastructure bank

His plan: The centerpiece of the Democratic presidential nominee's infrastructure plan is a $60 billion National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which would expand and enhance existing federal projects. It would also seek to bring in private-sector funds.

 

The bank would be funded over 10 years with money saved by reducing the nation's involvement in Iraq.

 

"But when it comes to rebuilding America's essential but crumbling infrastructure, we need to do more, not less," Obama said in June before the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "Maintaining our levees and dams isn't pork barrel spending, it's an urgent priority, and that's what we'll do when I'm president. The work will be determined by what will maximize our safety, security, and shared prosperity."

 

In addition to improving roads, Obama supports investing in mass transit to bolster metropolitan areas. He also supports investing in high-speed trains.

 

Obama is also looking at infrastructure as an opportunity to stimulate the economy. He estimates that the projects the bank finances would create up to two million jobs - both those directly involved in the project and indirectly supporting it, such as suppliers - and generate approximately $35 billion a year in economy activity.

 

In addition, Obama wants to create a $25 billion emergency Jobs and Growth Fund to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, prevent cuts in road and bridge maintenance and fund school repairs. It would create or save one million new jobs.

 

Experts say: Obama has consistently supported greater spending on infrastructure. They were also pleased he did not advocate suspending the federal gas tax.

 

Most favor the creation of an infrastructure bank that can harness the financial power of the private sector, which is increasingly interested in leasing or investing in highways and airports. Setting up such a bank also would make the federal government more involved in infrastructure projects than it is now.

 

Still, $60 billion over 10 years is a far cry from what's needed to address the nation's crumbling roads and bridges, they said.

 

"It would be a small improvement," Puentes said. "There's still a long way to go."

 

/see: http://money.cnn.com/2008/10/15/news/econo...sion=2008101506

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(from the California thread):

 

California update.

 

WASHINGTON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - The Bush administration will respond soon to a letter from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that said his state could need the federal government to buy $7 billion in notes because of a frozen municipal debt market, a White House official said on Tuesday.

 

"There was a letter from Governor Schwarzenegger to the administration asking for a $7 billion loan and that is being discussed," White House economic adviser Edward Lazear said in a speech to the National Association of Business Economists.

 

"I obviously can't reveal what's going to be said in the letter back to the governor, but that will happen ... probably today or tomorrow. So we'll have some information for you there," Lazear said, in response to a question.

 

http://uk.reuters.com/article/marketsNewsU...07?rpc=401&

 

And the reason for the mess.

 

NA-AS985_SALVAG_NS_20081006184015.gif

 

Parts of Southern California hit hard by the housing crisis are maneuvering to shape the Treasury Department's plan to buy up troubled assets so that it doesn't wind up causing a second wave of pain in their communities.

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122334317101810201.html

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Road to ruin: Happy Valley street embodies national housing bust

 

large_FranLane1.JPG

by Ryan Frank, The Oregonian

http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.s...alley_stre.html

 

large_FranLaneMap.jpg

 

A Good article.

What the reporter has missed - and it is important - is talking about how long a commute is faced by residents of Happy Valley.

 

I bet it is far away to most of their jobs, and I bet they need to drive a long way to shop.

 

This is unsustainable living.

 

And this:

"The suburb that should be so upbeat is infected with plunging home values, 675 empty lots carved into hillsides and 35 half-finished homes soaking in the rain. To the most macabre, Happy Valley is known as Death Valley and its slopes as Foreclosure Hills.

 

Across the Portland area, home prices actually rose in the first nine months of 2008 compared with the same period in 2006. But in Happy Valley's main ZIP code, prices fell 24 percent. The foreclosure rate of 1.7 percent is double the regional average."

 

and this:

"The Francesca Lane homes that fell into foreclosure resold for 80 percent or less of their original purchase prices. Pete Herder, who lives across from two foreclosures, figures his home has lost 15 percent of its value.'

 

May only be a hint of what lies ahead for Happy Valley.

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FIGHTING THE FORCES in favor of sprawl, will Obama do this?

 

(this is from a book review about a book saying sprawl is evitable, and freely chosen):

 

"The term "suburban sprawl" was invented during the 1950s to describe post-war American suburbs, which were different from earlier suburbs in obvious ways. Sprawl was much lower density than earlier suburbs. Sprawl made it impossible for people to walk, because it was designed with a discontinuous street system (large arterial streets and local streets are either indirect or cul-de-sacs). Sprawl was designed purely for the benefit of automobiles and ignored the pedestrian; no one wants to walk around a strip mall.

 

If Bruegmann contrasted sprawl with the streetcar suburbs that were popular in American cities before World War I, it would be obvious that the streetcar suburbs provide all the benefits of sprawl without many of the costs.

 

Streetcar suburbs let people get out of congested industrial cities to greener neighborhoods where they can own their own homes. They let people at every economic live in the way that the elite used to live. They are at least as livable as sprawl.

 

But streetcar suburbs use less than half as much land as sprawl suburbs. They have continuous street systems that allow people to walk. They are designed for pedestrians as well as for cars, with shopping on walkable Main Streets instead of in strip malls.

 

For the last twenty years, the New Urbanists have been building new suburbs that are like the old streetcar suburbs, claiming that they are more livable and less damaging to the environment than sprawl. This is one of the most important developments in urban design in recent times, and Bruegmann ignores it assuming that suburb means the same thing as sprawl.

 

Bruegmann also makes the false claim that people move to sprawl suburbs as a matter of free choice.

 

In reality, the federal government has given most transportation funding to freeways over the last fifty years, so most Americans do not have the choice of living in walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods.

 

In reality, also, most localities in the United States have zoning laws that require you to build sprawl. New Urbanists who have been trying to build modern versions of streetcar suburbs find that the zoning laws get in their way, that they have to go through endless hoops to build a suburb that is not sprawl. They have called for "zoning choice" to give developers the option of building sprawl or building streetcar suburbs -- and Wisconsin has enacted such a law."

 

/see: http://www.amazon.com/review/product/02260...mp;pageNumber=2

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I know in San Diego the city council there was really pushing smart growth initiatives. They wanted to focus on infill projects and regional hubs for employment so that you could live/work/play in the same neighborhood. Going forward the council I think wanted developers to focus any new condo/townhome development along the light rail grid. The last map I saw, they were focusing on four maybe five business/metro centers in the city to expand and connect with public transportation. San Diego built its light rail system back in the 1980s and has kept expanding it throughout the county. San Diego certainly is going through foreclosure problems these days but there are certainly other parts of the state in much worse shape too. A lot of the overbuilding occurred in the south county (City of Chula Vista/East Lake)…it was basically the last large piece of undeveloped land left in the county. There’s just not that much developable land in San Diego County anymore (quite a bit has been locked up too for environmental reasons) and there are a lot of canyons and mountainous areas that are not conducive for big building projects so the focus will eventually return to the urban centers to rebuild/repair.

 

California also passed a bond measure this past November for a high speed rail system to connect the entire state…starting with L.A to San Francisco and then branching out to other cities. I don't know how that will be paid for though ;)

 

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California also passed a bond measure this past November for a high speed rail system to connect the entire state…starting with L.A to San Francisco and then branching out to other cities. I don't know how that will be paid for though ;)

 

They should use the successful formula that works elsewhere:

QUOTE

My idea is to make mass transit a profitable proposition, by:

+ Putting projects where there is a large city core, and a minimum amount of density

+ Allowing development (including residential towers, shopping malls, offices - ie mixed use!)

along the mass transit line,

+ Permitting the mass transit company to share in the property development profits

+ If needed, putting a windfall profits tax on the uplift in values due to the transit line,

and passing a portion of this back to the transit company

 

These steps would help to increase ridership, and also help keep fares down,

and minimise the need for an operating subsidy

UNQUOTE

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I have visited two/three US Suberbs in my time.

 

I would acknowledge DrB's view that they are unsubstainable in their current form.

 

However I do think that with a bit of inginuity they can be re-worked into something still nice but much more sustainable & efficient.

 

From what I saw, US Suburbia has massive urban sprawl and retail and not much else. You have massively wide roads, most residential roads seem to be a stones throw from a 4 lane carriageway.

 

BUT US suburbia does have nice houses/communities, with space inside that are pleasant to live in.

 

It would mean a re-working but something like this is IMO possible:

 

- you demolish some uneeded shopping/residential areas and re-zone to

- you create local jobs in the zones created - business parts or "enterpise zones"

- you create local bus services - with all that road space there is ample opportunity to allocate bus lanes and run buses. Buses are the one easy cheap and immediate form of mass transport that seems to be available. Are much more efficient than cars even if they run on diesel.

- you create local convenience stores ie corner shops selling basic necessities

- the local jobs

 

Where I stayed in Atlanta, the end of the rail system was a good 12 miles away! The local town centre/high steet or what passed for it was a good 5 miles (shopping centres were much closer) We still used it once or twice and it was OK.

 

With a bit of planning you could create a system with transportation hubs where people drive the equivilent of an battery powered golf buggy (or Sinclair C5) to the station/hub where you would be able to plug it in to re-charge and be left secure. Meanwhile you jump on the train or greyhound bus/whatever and off you go. You cannot put rail stations everywhere after all.

 

Through taxes, you anhialate petrol driven private cars, so residential houses have electic cars or something like a electric golf buggy. With cars or vans available to hire at a reasonable cost on an occasional basis.

 

Something like the scenario outlined above would use much less energy and is avaiable with a bit of re-working on existing technology. Although it sounds drastic its a heck of a lot better than DrB's vision of abandoned urban sprawl.

 

double post

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From what I saw, US Suburbia has massive urban sprawl and retail and not much else.

You have massively wide roads, most residential roads seem to be a stones throw from a 4 lane carriageway.

 

BUT US suburbia does have nice houses/communities, with space inside that are pleasant to live in.

 

It would mean a re-working but something like this is IMO possible:

 

- you demolish some uneeded shopping/residential areas and re-zone to

- you create local jobs in the zones created - business parts or "enterpise zones"

- you create local bus services - with all that road space there is ample opportunity to allocate bus lanes and run buses. Buses are the one easy cheap and immediate form of mass transport that seems to be available. Are much more efficient than cars even if they run on diesel.

- you create local convenience stores ie corner shops selling basic necessities

- the local jobs

 

MAYBE, just maybe, that is what will happen.

What we are seeing already is that many stores in malls in the Stranded Suburbs are Dying

= =

 

Thousands of stores to disappear in '09

Experts say disastrous holiday sales will force many more merchants into bankruptcy - and ultimately into liquidation

 

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The ugly sales year that was 2008 will haunt U.S. retailers in 2009, with industry experts warning that disastrous holiday sales will spark a domino effect of store closures and bankruptcy filings.

 

And, with thousands of fewer stores, the "shop-'til-you-drop" mentality that has characterized American consumerism could be coming to an end.

 

"There's going to be a massive sea change in the retail landscape," said Nina Kampler, executive vice president with Hilco Real Estate, which advises retailers on their property management.

 

She said many strip shopping centers already have multiple big-box vacancies after several large stores filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Some eventually went out of business.

 

When that happens, the smaller stores in the strip centers can't attract the requisite customer traffic to stay productive and profitable.

 

Michael Burden, principal with industry adviser Excess Space Retail Services, expects as many as 14,000 stores will close in 2009. "We could see among the highest ever number of closures," he said.

 

He said states such as Nevada, California and Florida will be especially hard hit. ((Many "stranded suburbs" are in these states))

 

/see: http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/31/news/econo...sures/index.htm

 

Unfortunately, the US "experts" dont seem to grasp the bigger picture about how this is related to transport,

and the lack of a sustainable community within walking distance.

 

#2:

The dead mall problem

Experts say Atlanta, Las Vegas, and retail hubs in California and Florida are at real economic risk if thousands of more stores shutter in 2009

/more: http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/17/news/econo...sion=2008121710

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Big Houses no longer cool in recession-hit US ... / / From today's SCMP:

McMansions make way for modest efficiency

 

"The Big home is losing value" / "modest" is the new "lavish"

 

In 1973, the average home size was 1,660 sf.

In 2007, it was 2,521 sf

 

Builders who built 2600 - 3350 sf homes, are now building smaller (2100 sf homes).

Because buyers as "clearly looking for value"

 

Humble Homes - 88% = the percentage of developers planning to build smaller homes

 

The average square footage of new homes dropped about 7 percent to 2,438 sf (Q3-2008),

from 2,629 sf (Q2-2008.)

 

"the expense of maintaining a larger home is forcing people to seek smaller homes,

apartments, and condominium."

 

"beyond space, a large home, incurs 'a vast amount of taxes' "

 

"signs of conspicuous consumption are no longer cool."

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THE BIGGEST DEAD CAT - A bounceback in the 'Burbs

Tears for them when it slides, Tears for all if the recovery continues

 

The American Suburb Is Bouncing Back

Joel Kotkin, 04.07.09, 12:01 AM EDT

Don't believe the urban-living fundamentalists.

 

 

 

From the very inception of the current downturn, sprawling places like southeast California's Inland Empire have been widely portrayed as the heart of darkness. Located on the vast flatlands east of Los Angeles, the region of roughly 3 million people has suffered one of the highest rates of foreclosures and surges in unemployment in the nation.

 

Yet now George Guerrero, a top agent at Advantage Real Estate in Chino Hills, says he can see the light, with sales picking up and inventories finally beginning to drop. "There's been a real surge in sales," Guerrero says. "The market has come back to where it should be. I think we are ahead of the curve here of the overall recovery."

 

Of course, for the moment, much of this growth is concentrated in foreclosure sales. However, even developers of new properties, such as Brookfield Homes ( BHS - news - people ), also report a strong uptick in sales. In his new developments in the Inland Empire, notes Adrian Foley, head of Brookfield's Los Angeles area office, sales are up 150% since six months ago.

 

Although the economy is still hurting, the housing trend has become much more positive. Statewide, existing home sales have jumped 30% over the past year, taking the inventory from an estimated 16.7 months to less than seven months. In Chino Hills, it is down to six months.

 

Most encouraging, this activity is taking place exactly where the market was hit hardest in the beginning--in the suburbs and at the lower end of the market, which in the Inland Empire means between $150,00 to $300,000. This could presage the resurgence of the suburbs and the prospects for the middle- and working classes once again to purchase their piece of the American dream.

 

Nor is this merely a Californian phenomenon. Nationwide, existing home sales--predominately in the suburbs--have been on the rise for the last few months. The strongest growth is occurring in Sunbelt markets in Arizona, Nevada and Florida, as well as in California. These places experienced some of the greatest surges in prices, which forced many buyers to turn to subprime and interest-only loans.

 

These loans are largely not available today, Guerrero notes. Instead of financial quackery, lower prices--sometimes as much as 50% below peak--are allowing new buyers to buy affordably. In 2007, Inland Empire median house prices were roughly seven to 10 times the average annual income of potential buyers. Now they are settling close to the historic norm of three times.

 

But not everyone will be happy to see life return to the suburban housing tracts. Indeed, for some self-proclaimed urbanists, planners and pundits, this development might seem almost nightmarish.

 

Long the Rodney Dangerfield of American geographies, suburbs have never been popular with the country's intellectuals, academics and planners. The destruction of community, racial segregation, expanding waistlines and a host of environmental sins--from consuming too much gas to helping create global warming--all have been blamed on the suburbs.

 

When the mortgage crisis first hit, some urbanists, not surprisingly, were quick to blame the suburbs--instead of Wall Street--for the financial meltdown. With energy prices on the rise, they persuaded themselves and the ever-gullible mainstream media that the long-awaited "back to the city" jubilee was imminent.

 

In contrast, the suburbs and exurbs, crowed Brookings' Chris Leinberger, were soon to become "the new slums." As the middle classes trudged their way back to Boston and other suitably dense big cities, James Howard Kunstler--the "shock jock" of the new urbanist movement and a leading apostle of the "peak oil" thesis--happily proclaimed, "Let the gloating begin."

 

Yet as George Guerrero could tell them, a dream is not a thing so easily destroyed. The American landscape continues to change, but perhaps not entirely in the ways so eagerly projected by urban boosters and their media claque.

 

For one thing, even with the higher energy prices of last year, there seems to be, in fact, no notable shift of population to the urban core. Instead, as demographer Wendell Cox has pointed out, the recession may have slowed migration, but the trend toward the suburbs and sprawling Sunbelt cities has not ended or reversed.

 

At the same time, the once-widely ballyhooed market for dense urban living has unraveled. The "gospel of urbanism" may be accepted as such by most of the mainstream press, most notably The New York Times and Atlantic Monthly, but on closer examination the new religion has limited numbers of converts. In many locales--from Massachusetts to Los Angeles--inner-city condominium projects are losing value at least as much or more than suburban single-family houses. In San Diego, for example, condo prices have dropped in some developments by 70% since 2007, twice the decline in the overall market.

 

The problem has much to do with timing. In many areas, urban condominium developers continued to build even as the economy soured, largely due to the longer lead times and financing arrangements around such projects. Yet as the prices of houses have dropped many potential condominium dwellers have opted to purchase single-family homes--or are sitting anxiously on the sidelines waiting for prices to drop further.

 

As a result, foreclosure rates for condominiums, according to the Federal Deposit Insurace Corp., are on average one-third higher than for single-family residences. You do not have to travel to the outer exurbs to find zones of foreclosures, bankruptcies and the turning of ownership properties to rentals. Towers are either unoccupied or have gone to rental in markets as diverse as Miami, central Atlanta and downtown L.A .Even Chicago, the poster child for urban gentrification, now suffers from abandoned "condo ghost towns."

 

Manhattan, too, which long saw itself as immune to the housing downturn, is now experiencing the most precipitous price decline since 1980. Big urban developers across North America are filing for bankruptcy, including the largest private landowner in downtown Los Angeles, just like suburban builders were last year.

 

As someone who lives in--if you consider L.A. a city--and likes cities, I do not greet the urbanization of the housing crisis as an unalloyed positive. Yet one can hope that lower prices and interest rates--as well as the administration's tax credits for up to $8,000 for first-time buyers--could allow more people to consider an urban option, if that's what they want.

 

However, this will not be where the bulk of the action will take place. Surveys consistently show that between 10% and 20% of people want to live in dense cities. In a country that will gain 100 million people over the next four decades, that's 20 million, not exactly what you'd call chopped liver.

 

But the bulk of growth will continue to be in the 'burbs. The main reason is simple enough for almost anyone but a planning professor, architect or pundit to comprehend: preference. Virtually every survey reveals that the vast majority of Americans--and around 80% of Californians--prefer single-family homes that generally are affordable only in suburban areas. The fact that jobs have also continued to move inexorably to the periphery--as a newly released bookings report demonstrates to liberal think tanks' own undisguised horror--makes living in the 'burbs even more attractive.

 

These trends lead developers like Randall Lewis in Upland, Calif., who has suffered the downturn in the Inland Empire, not to dismiss the suburban future. He takes note of a recent 10% to 20% surge in sales among the 18 projects his company is now working on, all in suburban projects in California and neighboring states.

 

"The basics of the suburbs are still there," Lewis suggests. "Schools are important, but also people like the sense of place. But the basic amenities are children, grandchildren, where people go to church, where their work networks and friends are."

 

Lewis also rightly adds that a somewhat different suburbia will emerge from the crash. It will be a "melting pot," he suggests, "not just by race, but by ages and lifestyle." You will see more singles, empty-nesters and retirees as people choose to "age in place" close to where they have settled. There likely will be more smaller-lot, townhouse and other mixed-density developments closer to burgeoning suburban job centers.

 

But even as they change, the allure of suburbs--and the single-family house--will not fade and could even grow as they develop more city-like amenities. The fundamental desire to own a place of your own, to possess some private space and a relatively quiet environment has not died. Nor is it likely to without the imposition of a draconian planning regime.

 

For right now, it's all enough to make George Guerrero a born-again optimist. "There's something healthy just beginning to happen out here," he says. "This time people with good credit are getting good deals at good prices. It's a wonderful thing to see."

 

/see: http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/06/suburbs-i...california.html

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http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3cfca034-3bef-11...144feabdc0.html

 

Resentment stirs on suburban estates

 

By Jonathan Guthrie / Published: May 8 2009

 

There is anger in suburbia. Resentment seethes behind the neatly clipped shrubs and freshly painted front doors of housing developments across the country.

 

Caught in the property crash, housebuilders have been offloading unsold private homes to housing associations funded by the taxpayer. Some owner-occupiers are furious and want compensation – they did not expect to live cheek by jowl with so many tenants of social housing.

 

 

“I have ended up with a £180,000 council house,” said Scott Rutherford, 26, a facilities manager.

 

article continues

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A FUTURE for the suburbs after all?

 

WSJ clip: suburban farming, an idea whose time has come

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJbqOqSdpx4

 

People better start thinking about growing at least some of their own food. With food prices rising and shortages and food riots occurring globally, it is time to start becoming more self-sufficient, growing our food locally.

 

Visit this website for inspiration on this topic: http://www.pathtofreedom.com

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