February 25, 2010

Deflating the American Dream

New Book Sounds Death Knell for Suburbs

Media Briefing Presentation

View a PowerPoint presentation on Foreclosing the Dream (pdf)

Listen to a recording of the media briefing

CHICAGO — The suburbs are in a fragile state and it is only going to get worse. The recent foreclosure crisis has masked the true, underlying problems facing U.S. suburbs. These are basic structural problems that will not vanish with a global economic recovery.

Foreclosing the Dream: How America's Housing Crisis Is Reshaping Our Cities and Suburbs, published by the American Planning Association (APA), is the first book to look beyond financial manipulations to understand what truly fueled the foreclosure crisis and what it means for the future of suburbs and cities.

According to the book:

  • Higher rates of foreclosures in new suburbs and exurbs compared to lower rates in cities show that the American Dream is changing.
  • The number of households in the 30 to 45 age group has declined by 3.4 million since 2000 and this has reduced demand for large suburban houses.
  • The stereotypical "white flight exodus" from central cities has been reversed in most large metropolitan areas.

Changing demographics and consumer attitudes coupled with political support for compact development, transit investments, and awareness about climate change all point to a dramatic shift in development patterns.

Author William H. Lucy, AICP, is an urban planning professor at the University of Virginia. He is the first to examine the full impact of foreclosures in conjunction with other factors such as the influence of politics, household demographic changes, household income, and national housing policies to generate a comprehensive view of what is happening in our communities.

In examining the foreclosure rates in 236 counties in the 35 largest metropolitan areas, combined with housing and income characteristics in each of the 50 states, Lucy provides a more complete understanding of the housing and financial crisis that began in 2008. Lucy's research shows that central city improvements throughout the past decade illustrate a pattern of growing revival.

"These shifts will lead to shorter commutes to work and less carbon dioxide emissions," Lucy said. "But these same shifts will lead to more poverty in suburbs and more financially stressed suburban governments."

The ongoing deterioration of the suburbs was actually masked by the housing price run-up that occurred between 2002 and 2006. And the foreclosure crisis has only served to accelerate the suburban deterioration.

"Two key questions will be answered during the next decade," Lucy said. "Is 2010 the threshold for rapid city revival in coming decades just as 1950 was the threshold for rapid suburban development during the next half century? And will developers, lenders, and government officials facilitate these positive changes in housing markets while also adapting to support declining suburbs?"

"Foreclosing the Dream is a warning for communities and elected officials. Lucy identifies a fundamental change in our communities that will only continue to gain momentum. His research illustrates that the foreclosure crisis has greater implications beyond just revising our current lending practices," said W. Paul Farmer, FAICP, APA's Chief Executive Officer.

The book includes specific data for the following 35 metropolitan areas: Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Buffalo; Charlotte; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Columbus; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; Minneapolis/St. Paul; New York; Orlando; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Portland, OR; Sacramento; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; St. Louis; Tampa/St. Petersburg; Virginia Beach; Washington, D.C.

Foreclosing the Dream is available through APAPlanningBooks.com for $52.95 ($34.95 for APA members). ISBN: 978-1-932364-78-1. Paperback: 208 pp.

Lucy is the Lawrence Lewis Jr. Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia. Foreclosing the Dream is the first book to examine the broader context of the foreclosure crisis in terms of causes and effects, including influences of household demographic changes, household income, national housing policies, and national politics on the changing prospects of cities and suburbs throughout the United States. Lucy also is the author, with David Phillips, of Tomorrow's Cities Tomorrow's Suburbs, which was published by the American Planning Association in 2006.

Media review copies of Foreclosing the Dream are available by contacting Roberta Rewers at rrewers@planning.org.


Roberta Rewers, APA, 312-786-6395; rrewers@planning.org