This simple two-page piece in a section of the New York Times had my head spinning, its entitled “Life on the fringes of U.S. cities becomes untenable with the rising cost of gas“. I had come across it before on an MSN news line blurb but didn’t have time to read it. It took the thoughtful pastoral comments of Bill Riechart over at Provocative Church to peak my interests. Here’s a clip from the article to get you interested;
As the realization takes hold that rising energy prices are less a momentary blip than a restructuring with lasting consequences, the high cost of 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 analysis by Moody’s Economy.com.
Some proclaim the unfolding demise of suburbia.
“Many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s – slums characterized by poverty, crime and decay,” said Christopher Leinberger, an urban land use expert, in a recent essay in the Atlantic Monthly.
Most experts do not share such apocalyptic visions, seeing instead a gradual reordering.
“It’s like an ebbing of this suburban tide,” said Joe Cortright, an economist at the consulting group Impresa in Portland, Oregon. “There’s going to be this kind of reversal of desirability. Typically, Americans have felt the periphery was most desirable, and now there’s going to be a reversion to the center.”
I think the latter gradual reordering of things is probably more likely than the apocalyptic vision of Leinberger. One facet in development I’ve seen change even in the area we live within is the arrival of walk-able towncenters with all the eminities you would experience in the trendy parts of downtown and similar living spaces in townhomes and condos. These imitation cities are springing up around us and they’re going for as much as the non-energy effecient larger free-standing houses in the nicer communities in our area.
My guess is that until some better energy resources are developed or found these types of fads will sustain suburbia in part. And the opportunities to see people’s neat little suburbian worlds come unfryed and along with that their need for Christ come to the surface will Lord willing increase. People in the suburbs according to Andy Stanley are radically lonely. As they are forced into denser types of living in the suburbs and exurbs (which will redefine what exurbia means) my hope is that the churches vision for community and intimacy will take on a feature of relevancy it has not had in the past. We’ll see…
(Photographi art by SuburbanPoetica’s, piece entitled “Abandoned Suburbia“)