Is The Suburban Dream Turning Into A Nightmare?
For many decades, the allure of the American Dream represented in suburban living was too strong to ignore.
People longed for the independence, privacy and tranquility that came from having a home and life outside of bustling cities.
Unfortunately, it seems that this dream has become more of an American nightmare.
It turns out that what comes with suburban life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine.
Crime and poverty have infiltrated these “perfect” American communities, leaving suburbia far less desirable as far as living environments go.
The ideal image of white picket fences surrounding well-manicured lawns is now being replaced by greyness and uniformity, creating a much different reality than had previously been anticipated.
Suburban roads are even more dangerous than ordinary ones—you won’t find any real variety or adventure here either.
Overall, it seems that the days of people simply accepting suburbia as the only way to live are coming to an end.
The dream is turning into a nightmare as people become more aware of how far from perfect these so-called “perfect” communities really are.
The Decline Of The American Dream: How Banks And The Us Government Changed Homeownership In The Us
In post-war America, a cultural and financial obsession with homeownership was at the root of the explosion of suburban development.
This began with actions taken by banks and the US government, who wanted to encourage individuals to buy their own homes as a way of promoting wealth creation and inspiring patriotism and “good citizenship”.
To assist this effort, the Federal Housing Administration was created in 1934, allowing private lenders to provide mortgages to eager home buyers – which were then insured against default by the government.
Banks similarly benefited from mortgage borrowing as they were able to turn debt into bonds that could be traded on the market.
As a result, they started encouraging more and more people to take out mortgages in order to maximize profits.
This coupled with low land prices in undeveloped areas led builders and developers to look further away from city centers when constructing new housing developments.
People desperate for their own land often ignored these longer distances by practicing what is known as “drive till you qualify”.
Fast forward nearly fifty years later and up to 3 million Americans had moved out of cities into individual suburban homes because it made their dream of homeownership achievable – but this trend is now rapidly reversing due to changing aspirations among younger generations .
The Limits Of Suburban Life: Uniformity And Conformity Versus Diversity And Creativity
Living in the suburbs is not for everyone, as it brings with it an air of uniformity.
From big houses with big yards to eating similar foods, shopping at the same stores and having the same hopes and aspirations – this monotony can be depressing for those who crave variety and creativity.
This feeling of alienation is often reflected in popular culture, with films such as Blue Velvet and American Beauty or TV series like Desperate Housewives depicting suburban life as dull and predictable.
Sociologists such as Lewis Mumford feel that this lack of character limits people’s capacity to be creative while writer Jane Jacobs bemoaned that chasing a dream of serene outdoor living actually results in the destruction of rural diversity.
Living in the suburbs may offer the idyllic vision many Americans are looking for, yet beneath lies a stifling conformity that destroys both natural beauty and everyday creativity.
Single-Use Zoning Segregates Us From Experiences, Excitement And Community In Suburbs
The End of the Suburbs outlines how the segregation of suburban areas into different zones of activity can lead to a lack of variety and diversity.
This is due in large part to single-use zoning which was introduced by the Supreme Court in 1926 and stipulates that certain areas be earmarked for specific purposes, such as residential buildings or commercial ones.
This means that unlike cities, where houses, apartments, factories and shops are all close proximity to one another, suburban space tends to be more structured and divided into separate sections.
Thus while people living in cities have greater access to shops, culture and a variety of people – those living in suburbs find themselves limited in terms of what they can do without having to drive elsewhere.
It is this separation based on function which has many critics and has been compared to an unmade omelette – with each ingredient separated instead of being mixed together.
As a result life can become boring and impersonal with little opportunity for new experiences or meeting new people.
The author describes how one woman felt after moving from New York City said she found herself almost always bored as she had previously taken for granted the ability to interact with others on a daily basis.
Thus it is easy to see how segregation into different zones fosters a lack of variety and diversity – as well as a decreased quality of life overall – when compared with city-living where every corner holds something unexpected just waiting to be discovered!
The Consequences Of A Car-Centric Suburban Design: Rising Fuel Prices And Health Issues
Living in the suburbs creates a reliance on cars, which often leads to financial and health problems.
Cars are essential for suburbanites, as they need them to get around due to the far distances between commercial and industrial centers.
The design of the suburbs themselves reflects this car-centric lifestyle, with cul-de-sacs and looping streets allowing for easy navigation and arterial roads that are wider so cars can move quickly between neighbourhoods.
This dependence on cars unfortunately has serious implications for US citizens’ health.
It limits opportunities for physical exercise and makes it difficult for those who would rather walk to get around.
This has led to higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity amongst Americans, with adults being considered overweight in more than a third of cases, with the number having doubled among children since 1980 and tripled among teens during the same period.
The overreliance on cars is even more problematic in an age where fuel prices have been steadily increasing since 2000 – costing up to 80% more by 2008 – making it difficult for lower-income families living in the suburbs to cope with such high costs, often devoting 29% of their income to transportation instead of housing (28%).
The Decline Of The Suburbs: Crime And Poverty On The Rise, Cities Making A Comeback
Suburban life was once seen as an idyllic and prosperous experience.
However, times are changing and it’s easy to see why many people are now considering a return to the cities in light of increasing poverty and crime that are striking suburbs around the country.
The financial crisis has hit middle class Americans hard and with the influx of immigrants into suburbs during the 1990s, they have been left especially vulnerable with service jobs disappearing after the collapse.
As a result, the number of poor people living in the suburbs rose 53 percent in only 10 years – double the rate found in cities!
What’s even more worrying is that homicides in US suburbs rose by 17 percent between 2001 to 2010 – which is twice as much as the rest of America saw.
Cities have become increasingly attractive places to live and work again recently as they offer plenty of amenities such as waterfront marinas, multiplexes, loft apartments, convention centers, amusement parks etc.
Moreover, New York City actually seen its urban population increase by 40,000 people despite 9/11 attacks and Philadelphia saw its population rise after 60 years!
So it’s no surprise that people are starting to consider leaving their suburban homes for better opportunities offered by thriving cities – particularly due to rising crime and poverty rates in their areas.
The Changing Nature Of The American Dream: A Shift Away From The Nuclear Family Towards Urban Life
It is clear that the suburbs have lost their appeal for young people, predominantly due to how their aspirations have changed.
Raising a family used to be a priority for the young, but this is no longer the case – as proven by statistics on births and married households in recent decades.
Now, people would rather live in cities where they can make the most of their professional and entertainment opportunities.
As they flock away from suburbs, this causes an ageing population leaving fewer amenities geared towards youths such as youth groups and schools.
For example, a school in one suburb had to be shut down and converted into a senior center.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that with changing aspirations such as those belonging to young people today, the popularity of suburbs has declined significantly.
Will The Suburbs Survive? It Depends On Implementing Innovative Strategies For A Vibrant Future
The suburbs are not doomed to die out altogether, but can be revived with the right planning.
Americans still desire the privilege of privacy that suburbs provide and New Urbanists, traditional planners, academics and real estate developers are coming up with novel ways to build and develop that take into account the twenty-first century needs.
For example, implementing traditional planning principles successfully can bring back the community vibrancy that was otherwise lacking in suburban developments, while deciding on public transport options encourage less car reliant living.
One such significant step has been a $1.6 billion light rail line approved by Maryland to connect between suburbs of New Carrollton and Bethesda; proving that there is indeed a will to revive suburban life as we know it.
If these issues of transportation, design and more are addressed holistically and thoughtfully; the chances are much higher for suburban areas to become vibrant yet safe communities once again.
In the end, The End of the Suburbs offers a clear message – the traditional suburb is no longer viable.
The convenience and affordability of suburban living was once attractive, but changing economic and social conditions now make inner cities more desirable.
Without bold action to improve the image of suburbs, people are likely to continue to return to cities in higher numbers.
As a result, it may be necessary for developers to take drastic measures if they want to compete with urban areas and keep people in their suburban homes.