What is the New American Dream?

The new American Dream is about place, and that brings people and communities together. The 20th Century American Dream tended to pull cities and towns apart.
Elvert Barnes / Flickr

The new American Dream will transform cities and towns in the 21st Century. To understand this revised take on American aspirations, we have to grasp a few features of the previous American Dream, which created the metropolitan regions that we know today.

That 20th Century American Dream provided a lifestyle and housing that three generations of Americans bought into. There were many good parts to it.

One insidious aspect of it, however, was a fine-grained separation by income. Andres Duany gave an influential lecture across the US from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. Below is one slide from that lecture. Duany would point to the housing pod in the upper central part of the slide and say that those people all paid at least $350,000 for their units; those who bought the pink-roofed houses paid $250,000 for their units, and the people who bought the quadriplexes in the upper left paid about $100,000 for their units (this was 20 years ago).

That’s how the American Dream was sold. Even after racial and ethnic exclusions were outlawed by the Fair Housing Act in the 1960s, this class-based separation by income remained — it was driven by the constant striving to get to the next-higher tier.

Recently I learned a new term, "place-based development," from James Tischler of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). The term is objective and nonjudgmental, and refers to any development or investment that generates a sense of place. Place-based development is objectively a better investment today, and it creates higher values. Place-based development can occur in cities, suburbs, or rural areas, but it works best in urban centers and mixed-use corridors.

Full Story: What is the new American Dream?

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