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The spurb's time has long past. Future energy demands from the rest of the world mean higher energy prices down the road. We need homes where there are jobs, infrastructure and transportation. If the housing bubble and bust has taught us anything, it's probably a bad idea to build homes in the middle of nowhere, stretching along vast deserts and inland regions that are poorly served by highways. Americans are tired of wasting their lives in endless commutes. Not only does driving everywhere waste our precious time, it ruins our health leading to heart disease, obesity, asthma and a host of other ailments.

It's bad for our individual well being and the health of the planet.

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Cars contribute to climate change and bad air. As I've explored the extensive downside of the spurb in my book The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome , I've also examined what we could do about it. I traveled from the San Francisco Bay to the tip of Florida to see what works and how we could re-invent the American home and community. The first order of this revival is to reawaken our sense of the walkable neighborhood. They used to exist in every small town in America and every established city neighborhood. A walkable neighborhood means situating amenities such as stores, dry cleaners, libraries, bakeries and restaurants within about a three-quarter-of- a-mile walk.

Not only can you abandon your car in these areas, you become healthier and start to know your neighbors.

The Cul-De-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream

You look out for them and they look out for you. You can't do that in the freeway-choked suburbs of Los Angeles or the ring of overdeveloped towns surrounding Dallas. You're shackled to your car, but hey, it's the American Way, isn't it? While it's too early to tell, walkable cities may hold their real-estate values better than car-dependent areas. According to the research of urbanologist Christopher Leinberger of the Brookings Institution, with each incremental increase in walkability, property values are likely to rise.


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It's bad news for sprawl-infested, foreclosure-ridden places like Stockton, California, Southwest Florida and suburban Phoenix and Las Vegas. That doesn't mean that spurbs are doomed or cities will prevail when we work our way out of this bust a few years from now. Nearly every community can be rebuilt to accommodate light rail, pedestrians and bikes.

Dallas, So Much Like Pittsburgh | Dallas Observer

The key theme is to make communities more people -centric. The population is getting older, so this is a win-win situation. The sad fact is that the Great American Dream is still out of reach for far too many and it was the declining affordability of decent houses that was one of the triggers of the housing bust.

Bank-owned properties are selling at percent to percent discounts. After all, homeownership is an American birthright, or at least that promise was sold to Americans starting in Unfortunately the cost of land, homebuilding, taxes and homeownership far exceed what millions of households are able to cover with nearly stagnant personal income growth in this century.

Cul De Sac - Nico's Dream

Even at the height of the boom, Harvard researchers at their Joint Center for Housing Studies found that almost 18 million households were paying more than half of their incomes for housing about one-third is considered reasonable. They were also hit hard by rising energy costs, which rose twice as fast as total spending from The Harvard group last year found that "nowhere in America does a full-time minimum wage job cover the cost of a modest two-bedroom rental at 30 percent of income.

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Those families who are paying more than half of their budget for housing have little to nothing left over for healthcare, food, clothing and education. So was anyone surprised when brokers and subprime lenders targeted minority and low-to middle-income neighborhoods then walked away when they sold trillions of these mortgages to Wall Street and the largest banks?

They were selling the American Dream!


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From sparkling new suburbs in the Sun Belt to inner cities, cheap money and neutron-bomb adjustable loans meant nobody had to be house poor — at least for a year or two. Further exacerbating the affordability crisis was the tendency for municipalities to favor upscale, sprawling home developments over middle- and low-income housing.

Since home values are directly fueling property tax income in most places, nearly every community can get more money for schools and public services.


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When you base property tax revenue on home valuations, bigger price tags translate into better-equipped schools, fire stations and libraries. Yet building McMansion subdivisions only inflated the housing bubble and reduced the stock of affordable homes. From , home prices soared 45 percent in areas restricted to upscale building, versus 24 percent in unrestricted areas.