I’ve always been fascinated by grand old mansions in various U.S. cities that have fallen on hard times… whole neighborhoods that, over a couple generations, go from being the toniest side of town to the slum. And solid middle class homes too. How temporary it all is.
Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading…
In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento… many [of the houses] once sold for well over $500,000. At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others. Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied. Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity. Things have really been changing, the last few years.”
He lays out how the subprime mortgage mess, the increasing demand for urban living and resulting gentrification, and the inefficient design of suburban living will combine to vacuum the upper and middle class out of many suburbs, leading she ‘burbs toward chopped up rental housing, poor schools, etc. Over time, the suburbs will see similar decline to what our inner cities did in the 1960s and 70s.
In thinking about the thousands of neighborhoods that turned over or were emptied out due to “white flight” and wholesale demolition (a.k.a. “urban renewal”), I wonder about the people, the community, the relationships… so much lost. A much quicker version of this occurred in New Orleans with Katrina’s deadly arrival.