Friday, January 23, 2009

When the Suburbs Look Like Cities

This week, Newsweek asks about "The Suburban Challenge."

And, no, they're not talking about SUVs.

The majority of jobs are now located in the suburbs, as are the majority of foreign-born residents. More people living below the poverty line live in the suburbs than in the nation's cities. Add to that the mortgage crisis, urban-centered public services, and what President Barack Obama called an "outdated 'urban' agenda that focuses extensively on the problems in our cities."

From the article by Brookings Institution vice president Bruce Katz and Metropolitan Policy Program research associate Jennifer Bradley:

"Suburbs are middle-class family values expressed in stucco, brick and carpet grass. They're all the things that America's noisy, diverse, striving, poor cities are not.

But the suburbs as we think of them are vanishing.

They no longer represent a retreat from the tumult of American life, but the locus of it. What do we do now that they resemble our cities, in good ways and bad?"

Katz and Bradley say that all levels of government need to reinvent the physical landscape, creating more public transit and walkable communities, and treat metropolitan areas as a whole:

"America can't ensure its leading place in the global economy unless we grapple with the problems and opportunities of our suburbs. Nonprofits, long focused on inner cities, need to reach out to poor families and immigrants in the suburbs. The federal government should support the production and preservation of affordable housing there. Even more important, Washington needs to recognize that suburban governments are being flattened by the housing crisis — they don't have the experience or the capacity to slow the tide of foreclosures or deal with neighborhoods strafed by vacancies. The Feds need to use some of the billions in recovery funding to help local governments buy up foreclosed properties and put that land to productive use."

I don't totally agree with all of that, but as suburbs age, they definitely run into the same problems cities have — only without the inherent advantages of the urban core. Take Hickory Hill, for example. I think Dr. Janikowski and Dr. Betts with the U of M have talked about relocating site-based services (or having them relocated) to apartment buildings in Southeast Memphis.

The idea is that is where those services' clients are and, if the clients can't get to the service, bring the service to the clients.

1 comment:

polar donkey said...

If you want to see a few decimated neighborhoods that are isolated and used to be suburbs but are now on the periphery of City, check out these:
1) At the end of Rangeline Road across from Davey Crockett golf course in Frayser.
2) The first neighborhood east of New Allen on the south side of Hawkins Mill in Raliegh.
3) The neighborhood on the east side of the intersection of Tchulahoma and Shelby Drive.

These places are rough and in areas nobody thinks about.