'Evening News' Declares Imminent Death of Suburbia

     For decades, some on the left have decried the rise of the suburbs for everything from their impact on decentralizing big municipal governments to the impact longer commutes have on community and the environment. However, suburbs could be coming to an end, according to the August 7 “CBS Evening News.”

     Fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell reported that with gas near $4 a gallon, the cons now outweigh the pros of living in the suburbs and the working public will be forced to move out of smaller municipalities and back into large cities.

     “Sixty years ago, cheap gas and new highways helped fuel suburbia’s rapid rise, creating a new American utopia,” CBS correspondent Ben Tracy said. “But now the triple threat of falling home values, empty nesters returning to the city and sky-high gas prices is driving suburbia to the brink. Some developments are left half-built, while other homes look abandoned. Demand for suburban housing is dropping so fast that a recent study predicts that by 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes in suburban areas.”

     But according to the Orlando Sentinel, the man who made that prediction – Arthur C. Nelson of Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute – says the surplus could range from 3 million homes to 22 million home. The “Evening News” didn’t mention the low end of Nelson’s prediction.

     The backdrop of Tracy’s report: Californiaone of the states that has been hit hardest by the housing downturn and not necessarily the norm for the rest of the country. Nonetheless, Tracy said this could be “the beginning of the end” for the ’burbs.

     “It sounds hard to believe, but some experts are now predicting that this could be the beginning of the end of suburbia – that far-flung neighborhoods like this one could be tomorrow’s slums,” Tracy said.

     Tracy based his assertions on the writings of James Howard Kunstler, an author who told “Evening News” that he thinks “the project of suburbia is over.” However, Kunstler also has peddled other doom-and-gloom scenarios that didn’t come true, including cataclysmic failures surrounding Y2K and the Dow Jones Industrial Index (DJIA) crashing to 4,000 by the end of 2005.

     “Author James Howard Kunstler has been predicting the decline of the suburbs for more than 15 years,” Tracy said. “He says housing far away from job centers won’t survive.”

     “We’ve put so much of our national wealth and even our identity into the idea of suburbia that we can’t imagine having to let go of it or substantially change it,” Kunstler said.

     But Tracy neglected to raise the possibility of some suburbs rising and becoming job centers beyond the confines of large cities.

     Tracy touted the efforts of Sacramento, the capital city of California in the heart of the housing downturn, which has been pushing toward “smart growth – high-density development in walkable neighborhoods near job centers and transit.”

     “A dream abandoned miles away now beginning to fade,” Tracy concluded.