Resilience Planning for Suburban Growth

Whether or not the suburban shift accelerated by the pandemic continues, policymakers can implement climate resilience strategies and guide sustainable growth in both cities and exurbs.

2 minute read

April 12, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Suburban Neighborhood

Alan Sheldon / Shutterstock

As Joseph Kane, Mona Tong, and Jenny Schuetz write, historically, a few key factors dictate where people choose to live: “proximity to where they work, preferred amenities like school quality or climate, and connections to social networks of family and friends.”

In the last two years, “According to prevailing media narratives, the pandemic has ‘supercharged’ suburbanization rates and even hastened the death of U.S. cities.” In fact, the authors argue, “this largely continues pre-pandemic trends. Between July 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021, many core urban counties (those home to the largest city within a metro area) continued to experience greater population losses than their neighboring suburban counties.”

Regional leaders, the authors argue, should avoid kneejerk reactions and “take a step back and recognize the uncertainty and complexity surrounding them—including the need to better analyze and assess their region’s evolving concerns.”

Whether the reaction to the pandemic is a short-term blip or longer-term pattern, it has not reduced our collective need for greater resilience—supporting our ability to live in safe, affordable, and climate-friendly communities. That means having smaller, more affordable housing, which allows workers at all income levels to live close to jobs and amenities.

The authors conclude that “In light of these unknowns, post-pandemic planning should focus on baking in more flexibility and best practices into our land use plans to prepare us for both potential future spikes in housing demand and the general long-term trend of increasing suburban and exurban population growth.”

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