Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The end of sprawl?

Patrick Deneen notes this op-ed that finds a silver lining in the cloudy confluence of housing bust and high gas prices.

But let me cite the argument of Witold Rybczynski and Robert Bruegmann that sprawl is universal, even in places with old nice housing stock, good public transit, and high energy prices.

I’ll note my experience with the Austrian town near which my mom grew up. Where once it was a relatively self-contained market town serving local farmers, it’s now a suburb of the booming metropolis of Salzburg. There’s still town-like density and open land between Seekirchen and Salzburg, but the yuppies are coming--indeed, they have come--and are bringing their chain stores with them. We discussed it all here. For me the bottom line is this: the environs of Salzburg are a little more American-looking than they were when last I visited.

These things are, of course, matters of degree: houses and cars are bigger in the U.S. than elsewhere. I see some evidence that the latter are getting smaller, but little that the former are. Infill housing everywhere I see it consists of big houses (perhaps energy-efficient and "green," but nonetheless BIG) on little lots. And as Eduardo Penalver, the WaPo author, points out, we haven’t yet really begun to talk about "affordable" middle class housing as infill. Certainly the market won’t produce it, as the margins aren’t there for developers (unless we’re going to become again a nation of tenement dwellers). What’s more, unless we’re going to become a nation of home-schooling tenement dwellers, much will have to change before people other than the wealthy or childless will move close in.

In the end, then, my question mark is probably much bigger than is Penalver’s or Deneen’s.

Discussions - 7 Comments

A lot of people like being packed in like sardines, whereas a lot of other people like having their 1/4 acre or 1/3 acre lots.

But a small amount of people hate those that like their 1/4 acre or 1/3 acre lots and are attempting to force their preferences on everyone.

Another thing, Patrick Deneen appears to be full of crap!

I can't be sure but that Deneen sounds like a communist to me.

Patrick Deneen is the world's most thoughtful swing voter, the kind of "Christian democrat" with whom conservatives must be able to coalesce in order to build a majority, and with whom conservatives must converse.

And he argues like a gentleman . . . which, I must say, is a rare treat!

And by the way, I've been talking with my father about these questions and he's telling me that he knows people who not only move to the suburbs . . . they move out of state from the big cities and commute to work by plane (their own plane). He knows guys working on planes that will come in just under $1 million (not chump change, but within reach of many pretty wealthy people) and he says be prepared to see a lot of this happening in the decades to come. The "crisis" in housing won't last. Demand will catch up to supply once prices are adjusted and then we'll see another upswing in the market . . . and I think bigger yards (for, awhile anyway until they get too expensive).

And I wonder if the question of the middle class obtaining affordable housing might not be answered with more personal ingenuity, responsibility and a dash of self-reliance (some aspects of manliness?) . . . if moms are taking it upon themselves to home-school, how about dads taking it upon themselves to fix up their old, but decent, homes instead of hiring out (which is very often too expensive and frequently means that things never get done). But one problem is that so many men these days no longer know how to do things. Where are the shop classes and industrial arts that boys used to take in school? And when there are enough of those home-schooling moms, it may be that they get tired of having their days turned over completely to schooling (on top of everything else) and they'll start agitating for better performance in the schools. I'd expect to see movement on the former before the latter, however.

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