The most powerful threat to the American Dream of home ownership is not the subprime meltdown. It's the ideology of Christopher Leinberger, articulated in his manifesto "The Option of Urbanism," that the city will again become the center of civilization. High energy prices, the realization what gas emissions are allegedly doing to the environment, and a hunger for community [no more bowling alone] are the prime movers in this move back to the city, from the "Father Knows Best" suburbs.
According to the article "Trading Places" by Alan Ehrenhalt in the August 13th edition of THE NEW REPUBLIC, that end of the American Dream of a single-family house and yard is already happening. The only thing holding up a full migration from the suburbs to multi-unit apartments in Hartford, Chicago, and Atlanta is a lack of supply.
Of course, not every one is buying into that ideology. If they did, suburbs like Darien, Connecticut and Lincoln, Massachusetts would soon be slums with untended McMansions that no one can heat or commute from. The debate between the liberal supporters of high-density urban living and the conservatives championing the privacy and symbolism of the home in the suburbs became mainstream as California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Chapman University fellow Joel Kotkin duke it out. In LEGAL NEWSLINE, Scott Sabatini reports on this high-profile brawl.
Brown has been advocating, some might say arm-twisting, high-density residential and commercial building to save energy, reduce GHG emissions and help us to know our neighbors. In an opinion-editorial in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, Kotkin attacked Brown. Brown responded in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL today. In that response Brown says he's not waging war on suburbs but just trying to get his state to smart energy policies.
Currently, the media, which has been accused of being held hostage to liberal thinking, have given lots more space to Leinberger's contention that those who have the resources to return to the city will. It's those without those resources - the poor - who can't. However, if you check the highways and freeways during rush hours, there are still many many cars heading from the suburbs in the AM and back to them in the PM.
How this suburb vs. high-density city debate will play out depends, of course, a lot on the cost of energy, both for heating/air-conditioning and transportation. If prices go down to double digits, as some analysts predict, Darien, CT might still be a place to live folks dream about. If not, as Leinberger's apostles preach, by 2030, those tony places could morph into slums or ghost towns.