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Distressed Suburbs Struggle to Recover From Decade-Old Recession

Located primarily in the western states, some suburbs were hit hard by the 2008 recession and still haven't recovered. Many have seen an influx of low-income residents and upticks in crime.
January 5, 2018, 7am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Alana Semuels covers Hemet, California, one of the places where last decade's heady housing market drove plentiful construction that ground to a halt in 2008. While many places have since recovered from the economic fallout of that era, locales like Hemet remain stuck.

While distressed "Rust Belt" communities get more press attention, poverty plagues many far-flung suburbs, even some with large, expensive-looking homes. "Such communities have high shares of poverty, many housing vacancies, a large proportion of adults without a high-school diploma, high joblessness, and a lower median income than the rest of the state in which they are located. They also lost jobs and businesses between 2011 and 2015."

Of Hemet, Semuels writes, "employment fell 15.5 percent between 2011 and 2015, while it grew 9.4 percent nationwide. The number of businesses in Hemet dropped 4.8 percent over that time period. The median home price, at $237,000, is still 30 percent lower than it was in 2006."

She goes on, "Hemet’s problems are also the result of structural changes in the economy—changes that have been underway for decades but were masked by the heady days of the housing boom." A rough transition from homeowners to renters, as well as rising crime rates, can be attributed to a range of related problems including negligent absentee landlords, plentiful but low-paying and unstable jobs, and high housing costs in more central locations.

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Published on Friday, December 29, 2017 in The Atlantic
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