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Sprawl Hits a Wall

In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Allison Arieff considers the next phase of the "American Dream," as the notion of trading in the ideal of the home as fortress for the home as part of a larger whole gains widespread traction.

The cultural mechanisms, regulations, and incentives that encouraged sprawl-based development for the latter half of the last century are so entwined with the myth of the "American Dream" that they've been hard to untangle, even as changing tastes, demographics, and economic realities have heralded their expiration.

But Arieff finds reason for optimism: "In short, builders are recognizing that buyers (and renters, too!) value the neighborhood as much as - if not more than - the house. And what they want from that neighborhood might not be McMansions and four-car garages after all. Resale value may not in fact trump all else. Young and old, whether they're in the city or the suburbs, want to walk to places like restaurants and shops."

"The country could be moving toward something much better, something that's less about consumption (of stuff, of such essential resources) and more about quality of life. Neighborhood groups have perhaps never been so strong a force, joining together to create an array of community-building offerings that make shared space the place to be (rather than the place to enter the garage from)."

But the forces of the status-quo, well-funded and well-organized, are digging in, and equating, "Any threat to the McMansion of yore...to 'feudal socialism.'"

Arieff concludes that, "Living better and smarter shouldn't be a partisan issue, nor should attempts at facilitating it be equated with destroying 'our fundamental rights and liberties as a people.'"

Full Story: The American Dream: Phase II

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