Why Suburbs May Become the Next Slums
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With that in mind, Galster recommends strict monitoring of suburban poverty rates to prevent neighborhoods from reaching the so-called tipping point. Such data would allow housing officials to push for laws requiring property owners in low-poverty neighborhoods to accept Section 8 tenants (the existing program is voluntary), something he recommends. Conversely, he argued, laws should prevent landlords from accepting low-income tenants when neighborhood poverty rates exceed designated levels. He also supports "inclusionary zoning" rules that mandate a small number of low-income housing units in new single-family developments.
But Nelson, whose research predicts the vast oversupply of large-lot homes in the coming decades — and the growing "suburbanization of poverty" — said much can be done today to reshape the residential landscape. Most of the homes he expects to exist in 2025 have yet to be built. He said planners can reduce that oversupply by crafting long-term growth policies that reflect a careful assessment of regional demands for all housing types over a generation or more. What they will find, he said, is a preference among all income groups for denser, mixed-use communities with access to mass transit.
Leinberger agreed, arguing that planners should acknowledge that the suburban experiment has failed. "I wouldn't add another new road in American today," he said. "The changing geography of poverty is another reminder that our housing policies today will be felt for years to come, and in ways nobody ever imagined."
David Villano is an award-winning, Miami-based journalist who has contributed to dozens of publications, including The Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Newsweek, Mother Jones and the Columbia Journalism Review.