Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, June 25, 2010

Old patterns of suburban growth and urban decline are now being reversed

Maps of foreclosures in Chicago region. See the difference between 1998 and 2008. Scary....From New Urban News
I´ve been reading an article at New Urban News, about professor William H. Lucy, who has examined America’s foreclosure epidemic in great detail and has arrived at this conclusion: Decades-old patterns of suburban growth and urban decline are now being reversed. 
This is pretty obvious and you don´t need a complete analysis, though I really appreciate all the investigation.
What was left, the empty neighborhoods, ¨zombie¨ developments, are located mostly in suburban areas, in rural areas where beautiful houses were sold a couple o years ago, much bigger and cheaper than the ones in the cities. Those homeowners could enjoy lakes, landscapes, but now, it´s  very difficult for any body to afford the expenses related to far away neighborhoods, beginning with access to supermarkets, long travels to work –if they were not fired-, more than one car as everybody has  to drive to populated cities.  Now, people look for job openings in urban areas, as always, they can find more opportunities.
And where do foreclosure former homeowners go? To rent, anywhere, obviously rental apartments are not in suburban or rural areas. Or even they relocated in another states, with their families.
This is the real city I see everyday, what is not shown in the books, properties in crowded neighborhoods, with illegal constructions ready to be rented. If somebody buys a property with illegal rooms, he can ask for a price reduction. Then, he should take care of it, demolish or legalize. But, people keep on renting them until an inspector from the City shows up. This is another attraction from cities………
Illegal construction for rent, in Los Angeles. Picture by Myriam Mahiques
People also rents motor homes in the city. What cannot be seen from the street....Picture by Myriam Mahiques 
This is an excerpt from the article  at New Urban News:
“The years leading up to the 2008-2009 crises may be seen in retrospect as the last hurrah of the exurban extreme of the American dream,” says Lucy, a professor of urban and environmental planning at the University of Virginia. Increasingly, people with choices and financial resources want to live in cities. 
The residential foreclosures that spiked in the past three years have been highly concentrated. Sixty-two percent of foreclosures in 2008 occurred in just four of the 50 states: California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. Forty percent clustered in 16 counties within 10 metropolitan areas, nearly all of them in the Sunbelt, which have more than their share of semi-abandoned tracts — referred to by Lucy as “zombie subdivisions.”
The foreclosure crisis has taken most of its toll on metropolitan areas’ edges — places that in many instances depended heavily on real estate activity for their economic well-being, according to Lucy. His findings appear in Foreclosing the Dream: How America’s Housing Crisis Is Reshaping Our Cities and Suburbs, a 208-page paperback from the American Planning Association’s Planners Press 
Lucy attributes much of the foreclosure crisis to these factors:
• Federal policy aimed at increasing the homeownership rate above the 64 to 66 percent range where it had stayed from the 1960s to the 1990s. President Bill Clinton boosted the rate to 67.7 percent. President George W. Bush’s goal of getting 5.5 million more Americans to own homes — pushing the rate to 71.4 percent —resulted in a further easing of financial standards. 
• A long-term decline in the incomes of most Americans and an increase in the gap between the rich and the rest of the population. Many who were enticed to buy houses couldn’t afford them. 
• Credit that started out cheap but jumped to a higher rate within a few years.
• The recession. “The foreclosure crisis was triggered in those states where house prices to income ratios widened the most,” led by California and Nevada and then Arizona and Florida, Lucy says.
Back to the city
Unaffordable houses and a severe recession weren’t the only influences, Lucy says. “Something else was also afoot. … The whole pattern of metropolitan development was quietly moving in reverse.” 
Through a detailed examination of census records, Lucy shows that the condition of quite a few cities stabilized by 1990 and then improved. “During the 1990s, something remarkable began to happen,” Lucy says. “Cities were attracting people with money.” In the 40 central cities of the 35 metropolitan areas ranked as America’s largest in 1980, the decline in average per capita income halted. 
Why the change?
“The revival of interest in cities on the part of middle-class whites had a lot to do with a fondness for older homes,” particularly their craftsmanship and character, Lucy maintains. By 2000, neighborhoods with housing built before 1940 were no longer the poorest in their metropolitan areas. They were attracting inhabitants with greater means. 
At the same time, neighborhoods made up of housing that had been built between 1950 and 1970 started to lose their privileged status. Areas developed from 1950 to 1970 were “most likely to be dominated by small houses [whose appeal was waning], far from shops and other needs.”
In other words, both the nature of the houses and their construction and their closeness to, or distance from, everyday needs and services precipitated a profound shift. Urban living gained in popularity. 
Keep on reading

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