'Slumburbia': Exurban Decay Spurred By Mortgage Crisis

<p>The mortgage crisis is devastating many communities far from urban centers, while 'inner cities', regionally speaking, are weathering the financial storm far better thanks to their urban form that makes them attractive to those that can afford them.</p>
March 21, 2008, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"We're not talking about mean inner city streets getting meaner, we're talking about the pristine, newly built developments of four-bedroom, three-bath dream homes produced in the last housing boom becoming ghettos for the poor and the disenfranchised.

Slumburbia? After decades of middle class flight from the cities in search of safe neighborhoods and good schools - a flight that continues today even from gentrified cities like San Francisco - it's hard to conjure the image of a truly derelict suburbia. Will all those manicured lawns sprout weeds and broken bottles like a Baltimore back alley? Will drug dealers take over the local cul-de-sac? Will squatters set up camp in the neighbor's McMansion?

All this seems unfathomable, but it's the prediction du jour for some urban planners who make it their business to track the larger sociological implications of our land use."

"This week RealtyTrac released new foreclosure numbers about cities that were hit the hardest in February. Stockton, with nearly 5 percent of all households at some stage of foreclosure, got the honor of ringing up the second highest foreclosure rate nationwide, after Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. Other sprawling California regions dominated the list: Modesto at No. 3, Merced at No. 4, Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 5, Bakersfield at No. 7, Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 8, and Sacramento at No. 9.

What do all these places have in common? Suburbs upon sprawling new suburbs. Does this suggest that the American dream of the large-lot single family home is doomed? Some experts think so."

The article explores the writings of American urban studies theorist, Richard Florida ("Who's Your City?") and Brookings Institution fellow, Christopher Leinberger ("The Options of Urbanism").

Thanks to Carol Whiteside

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Published on Friday, March 14, 2008 in The San Francisco Chronicle
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