- Title: USA: Economic crisis hits home in suburbia
- Date: 8th April 2009
- Summary: GAINSEVILLE, VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES (MARCH 26, 2009) (REUTERS) HOMES AND FOUNTAIN IN SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT VARIOUS SHOTS OF SWING SET STREET SIGN PAN OF NEIGHBORHOOD WITH UNFINISHED CONSTRUCTION SITE CONCRETE SLAB BASE OF UNFINISHED HOME VARIOUS FOR SALE SIGNS IN SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENTS JEAN BELL WALKING (SOUNDBITE) (English) JEAN BELL, SUBURBAN VIRGINIA RESIDENT SAYING: "Well it's not good. You know, it's hard. It's hard for the people who are staying here. The house next to us has been empty for over a year and a half. You know, there has been no one to take care of it. We kind of have to watch, you know, we all watch each other's homes, because we don't want the property values to go down any more than they are. We try to watch for vandalism." SCHOOL BUS DRIVING DOWN ROAD VARIOUS SHOTS OF SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOODS (SOUNDBITE) (English) COREY STEWART, PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS CHAIRMAN SAYING: "The fact is that Americans prefer suburban living. Many of us do, especially those of us with children and so what you see in Prince William County is really kind of, it's not a model that is going away. People still do prefer the large home with a large lot and space." ROOFTOPS IN SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENT TOWNHOUSES UNFINISHED CONSTRUCTION SITE PAN OF EMPTY LOTS LOT FOR SALE SIGN
- Embargoed: 23rd April 2009 22:43
- Location: Usa
- Country: USA
- Topics: Economic News,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA6SPUZSSPA1DXEWAUKMALOZCMC
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Jean Bell didn't plan to take care of her neighbour's lawn when she moved to this cluster of brick townhouses hard by the freeway. But the house next door has sat vacant for the past year and a half, and the bank that owned it wasn't keeping it up. So the retiree and her family have mowed and watered the grass to deter the burglars who have hit nearby developments.
"We all have to watch each other's homes because we don't want the property values to go down any more," Bell says. "It's scary, and I really don't know what's going to happen."
Thirty-five miles (54 kilometers) from downtown Washington, it's easy to find signs that America's relentless suburban expansion may have petered out. Raw earth and blank concrete pads mark house lots that have sat unsold for three years. Streets remain incompletely paved and poorly lit, the legacy of a builder that declared bankruptcy. And the unfamiliar faces of transient renters have replaced homeowners who were forced out by the foreclosure crisis.
Is America's love affair with the suburbs over? Though the recession has left few areas of the United States unscathed, the sprawling neighborhoods out on the edge of the United States' metropolitan areas have been especially hard-hit. Property values are falling, crime is rising, and the roads remain as congested as ever.
Nationwide, fewer people are moving to the outer suburbs. The growth rate in outer-suburban counties plunged to 1.6 percent in the 12 months ended July 2008, down from 2.3 percent two years earlier, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.
A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors found twice as much support for building mass transit as for building roads. More than half of those surveyed said growth should be limited in outlying areas and encouraged in already developed areas.
One of the key advantages of the suburbs -- their affordability -- is eroding as well. A recent Brookings study of the Washington region found that transportation costs eclipse any housing savings for those who live more than 15 miles (24 km) from work.
Governments are also reassessing policies that encourage sprawl.
Developers in Virginia now must build roads through their subdivisions, in a blow to the traditional cul de sac architecture that has been a staple of the suburban style. Many older suburbs are converting their office parks and shopping malls into more pedestrian-friendly development.
The fading appeal of the suburbs is reflected in the Washington region's housing market, where home values increased 8 percent during 2008 in the city even as they fell 8 percent in the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia. Suburban Prince William county, home to Bell's ailing subdivision, saw a 23 percent decline, steepest in the region.
With tax revenues down, the county government plans to cut police and fire services and suspend road construction. School class sizes will increase.
Property crimes edged up in 2008 after years of steady decline as burglars stripped valuables from vacant houses.
And to top it off, Forbes magazine said the county's Linton Hall neighborhood had the nation's longest commute at an average of 46 minutes. In an unfinished subdivision off Linton Hall Road, the county's top elected official says the region must attract more jobs and move toward denser, more pedestrian-friendly development. But that doesn't spell the end of McMansions, cul de sacs and other suburban staples, Corey Stewart says: "What you see in Prince William County is not a model that is going away. People really do still prefer the large home with the large lot."
Stewart points out that home sales have doubled in the county over the past year thanks to the rock-bottom prices. But the county is bracing for another wave of foreclosures as a second wave of adjustable-rate mortgages is scheduled to reset starting in 2010. More trouble is on the horizon.
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