As part of its "Future Tense" initiative with the New America Foundation, Slate is exploring the concept of resilience. In this article, Patrick Doherty makes the case for improving America's resilience by reconsidering suburban development.
Doherty argues that the world is facing an "existential challenge" of unsustainability, and that one of the best ways to address it is to face the fact that the postwar suburban housing model no longer works, is incommensurate with America's demographic changes, and is no longer considered desirable by a large majority of potential homeowners. He writes,
"There is a great demographic change happening in America. Baby boomers and millennials are changing the definition of the American dream and, in the process, have created a pool of demand for housing nearly three times as large as what existed after World War II. The trick is, it's not for the homes that builders are building.
Boomers and millennials, the two largest demographic groups in the country, are converging in a time-of-life moment where what they want is smaller homes on smaller lots in walkable, service-rich, transit-oriented communities. Boomers, who have just started turning 65, are empty-nesting and downsizing. But they are going to have to work much later into what they thought would be their retirement, and they fear the fate of their parents, who had their car keys taken away and ended up in the nursing home. Millennials are in the process of getting married and having kids, and according to market surveys, 77 percent simply don't ever want to go back to the ‘burbs.
At the end of the day, traditional subdivisions are isolating and expensive, while millennials are increasingly connected, are more into tech than cars, and are seeing their economic future more like their grandparents'-full of hard work and living on a budget."
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