Living in the suburbs was once the dream of many Americans, however a recent trend seems to indicate something different. A white picket fence surrounding a big house with children and dogs playing in the yard used to be the epitome of the American lifestyle, but a new mindset leading of environmental consciousness and financial worry has been sending people back to the city.
A lengthy commute was a trade-off many were willing to make in order to live in a big house in a quiet, safe neighborhood. Back when fuel costs were a minor part of the household budget and climate change was unheard of, a long drive to and from work did not pose a problem. Between 1970 and 1990 the largest 100 cities in the US saw urban sprawl stretch away from the city more than 14,000 square miles, proving that the American dream was indeed alive and well.
The recent economic crisis, coupled with outrageous gas prices, have forced society to rethink the American dream. Closing of businesses and vacant foreclosed properties are beginning to dominate the landscape in once vibrant suburbs as they turn into what some are now calling “slumburbs”.
Urban neighborhoods are now being designed in a more pedestrian friendly manner, encouraging bicycle traffic and the use of public transit. For many, this means the limited use of a vehicle, and for some, the elimination of a car altogether; therefore, addressing the environmental and financial issues we have been burdened with. For the suburban family with the gas guzzling SUV, a mortgage that is worth more than their home, and a recent lay-off, city life looks pretty good.
From an economic stand-point, buying a home in the burbs used to make sense; or did it? When you factor in heating and maintenance costs for the big house, gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, and your valuable time wasted during the commute, it would more than pay for the higher mortgage in the city.
Claiming safety as a benefit to suburban living can also be challenged when you consider the extra amount of time spent travelling in your vehicle at highway speeds. Then there is the health factor; walking or cycling to work is far better than sitting in your car for hours each day and your stress levels would surely improve when you do not have to worry about traffic problems making you late for work or getting home for dinner.
Living in the suburbs may have made sense in the past, and for some, the dream continues as they put a shiny new coat of white paint on their fences each year; however, in light of the issues surrounding the environment and the nation’s ongoing financial crisis, it appears as though living in the city is quickly becoming the new dream in America.