The Hate Affair With Suburbia

Suburbs have never been popular with the chattering classes, whose members tend to cluster in a handful of denser, urban communities—and who tend to assume that place shapes behavior, so that if others are pushed to live in these communities they will also behave in a more enlightened fashion, like the chatterers. This is a fallacy with a long pedigree in planning circles, going back to the housing projects of the 1940s, which were built in no small part on the evidently absurd, and eventually discredited, assumption that if the poor had the same sort of housing stock as the rich, they would behave in the same ways.

Prof. Stephen Clark, who sends the link, comments: “The last part reminds me of Reynolds’ First Law.” Indeed.


But the simple fact remains that the single-family home has remained the American dream, with sales outpacing those of condominiums and co-ops despite the downturn.

Florida has suggested that simply stating the numbers makes me a sprawl lover. While he and other urban nostalgists see the city only in its dense urban core, and the city’s role as intimately tied with the amenities that are supposed to attract the relatively wealthy members of the so-called “creative class,” I see the urban form as ever changing, and consider a city’s primary mission not aesthetic or simply economic but to serve the interests and aspirations of all of its residents.

Clearly the data supports a long-term preference for suburbs.

Shout him down! He’s a sprawl lover! Well, then, come after me, too. “The biggest complaint against sprawl, as Bruegmann repeatedly points out, seems at core to be that some people are getting above themselves.”