US Metros are in a unique position to take advantage of the housing market collapse in order to position suburbs for the future. By contrast, Canada’s suburbs are less well positioned.
Why? because in Canada the vast majority of suburban homes are occupied by content owners who are making their mortgage payments. And in order to prepare for a more transit-oriented lifestyle in a high-fuel cost environment, some suburban houses will need to be destroyed to make room for a more walkable, grid-like street network (rather than meandering crescents ending in cul-de-sac’s) as well as neighbourhood shopping districts that can be reached by foot and serve as transit hubs.
Empty suburban homes provide an opportunity to do just that and more. Planners could also re-zone the areas, allowing for smaller lots, or two homes on a single lot, which would eventually bring more people in as both renters and owners. More people support more amenities, which in turn attract people. Plus a variety of home sizes will in the future offer different price points for families of different means, thereby creating some economic diversity in a neighborhood, which is important for a community to function. You need homes for the coffee shop worker as well as the restaurant owner and not just identi-kit houses designed for people of similar incomes.
So, is anyone noticing American suburbs being up to the challenge? And what’s the solution for auto-centric suburbs that don’t have a housing crisis?