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I am curious to hear your take on the benefits of suburbia? To me I see people with long commutes, who live in relative isolation. They waste resources and time they lead to sprawl that destroys landscapes. They have made us dependent on cars and high energy transportation mechanisms. They have increased the wealth gap, and increased our segregation. As a follow on to results of their increased overhead they have made it harder for families to operate in a normal fashion. Kids have a lower density of fellow kids, and rely on parents for driving them around to places, parents spend less time with their partners and family's due to longer commutes and more overhead with doing anything, because of that overhead we started to outsource all aspects of family life ( childcare, cooking, entertainment ). In general I see the suburbs as an abject failure.



Not all suburbs are the same. I live in suburban Minneapolis and most things seem to work pretty well. The schools are great, the houses are fairly large and comfortable, the commutes for most people I know are not very long, the yards are big (and enjoyed), there are lots bike rail trails, and weekend summer days are full of people walking, riding, etc.

The big downside is that kids do need to be driven places, which is less true "in town", but it's not like the suburbs don't have lots of advantages too.

Even the millennials are now starting to finally get married and have kids, and guess what: they are moving to the suburbs too.

I don't begrudge anyone their preferences, but all this hipster trashing of the 'burbs just flies in the face of what most families actual want.


As one of those Millennials who has kids, I can tell you the push to the suburbs is mainly due to the supply of houses and the prices in cities not because they offer any better quality of living. From everyone I have talked to they would prefer not to be in the suburbs, but because for the past 60 years that is where we built all the houses for families there isn't much of an option. Take a look at housing prices for three bedroom houses and notice how big of a drop in price there is once you get outside the city. People aren't moving to the suburbs because they are better, they are moving there because that's the only thing they can afford. Developers have no incentive to build family sized houses in the city as its cuts into their profits and after decades of family flight to the suburbs there is no one on city councils to actually make zoning laws to accommodate what people want.


Also the schools. Houses in the our city in safe-by-city-standards neighborhoods are not only way more expensive (and, nonetheless, smaller) than the 'burbs, they're usually served by some of the worst schools in the area. So then you're paying for private school, on top of more expensive housing. The math for living in the city doesn't work out unless you're really rich—or don't have kids. You could maybe do it with one and not hurt your wallet too much, but the costs scale quickly with 2+.


Yes, affordable large homes is one of the benefits of the suburbs. If you like the city so much, just live in a two bedroom and make the kids share. It's how it used to work before all those evil developers built the suburbs that everyone moved to.


Except its not. The housing stock in cities used to be much more diverse, but then we spent 6 decades not continuing to build it out because we decided cars and gas were free and there was no detriment to unchecked waste. The whole point I am making is that you _could_ have affordable family housing in a city and not have all the associated problems of suburbs of which there are many as I listed, but without someone holding those "evil developers" to building it, they will just do what makes them the most money, and then you have a whole generation who is watching their house value skyrocket as we run into the limits of suburban style housing planing and they don't see how they possibly could have made a bad decision. I guess if its working out ok for you then everything is fine.


You want something that is intrinsically expensive (a large home in a high-density urban area) to be cheap, which is understandable if not very realistic. It is not because of greedy developers, or bad zoning, it is because of simple market forces. Tiny condos don't sell and in the suburbs and big SFHs are too expensive in the city for most people. Everybody trades off a variety of concerns when choosing where to live, but pretending that if only you were in charge then everything would be better is just silly totalitarianism.


Except it's not, building costs are relatively fixed per square foot, but it's more profitable to sell them in one and two bedroom units, then using the extra space for a third bedroom. This is why in almost every high density building project you only see one or two bedroom units. Because that third bedroom isn't going to bring in as much money as an additional one bedroom unit. The result is the only place you build those kinds of houses are out in the burbs, it no more cost effective it's just that no one would buy a one bedroom house in the middle of no where so they build the only thing that will sell on the quickly diminishing resource of undeveloped land. Since we have been doing that for sixty years the only undeveloped land is well outside any reasonable commuting distance to a job, so you end up with house prices in the previously developed location soaring, then when the idea that maybe using up all that space on low density housing was a bad idea the response is there is intrinsic limitations.

And this goes back to the title of this article, part of the reason people see parenting as so burdensome is they now have to deal with the added realities of a Civic planning policy that is a miserable failure.

Edit: To add data, to build a basic house ( 4 corner ) at a Good, but not luxury level averages $147/sq.ft. , to build a multistory residential unit at highest quality it averages $150/sq.ft. If you build over 15 stories the average price can drop by about 11%. Those are raw construction costs, including labor and materials, and take into consideration most new housing developments in the suburbs are _not_ basic 4 corner houses.


>Except it's not, building costs are relatively fixed per square foot [...]

100% true. I work as a real estate data researcher. Totally agree suburban sprawl is a significant failure, and we're seeing in this thread yet another example of dragging out the old reliable cop-out "market forces" as a way to pretend that bad decisions made were good decisions. Up is down, sun rises in the west, etc.

We absolutely have got to get out from under this pervasive market fundamentalist quackery.


You can't really evade market forces, you can only dodge them for a limited time. The only solution you are really going to have is fixing housing prices. Sounds like a winning plan!


You don't need to evade market forces, you just need to actually think about the implications of your zoning laws. Allow more high density houses to be built and require them to have family friendly units. Stop subsidizing the suburban sprawl to the detriment of urban development and fix the broken school systems.


Unchecked density isn't a good solution. You can find lots of examples of how that works out in places without zoning laws.


Destroys landscapes? At least there is a landscape. One that's much nicer than being surrounded by concrete in all directions. I don't know how narrow a definition of "suburbia" we're taking, but I grew up mostly in a smallish town in a valley and there weren't any of these problems. The rich people had bigger houses, whatever. Going places was a short nice drive instead of having to take crowded public transit (I've taken public transit, I'd drive instead any day). Are you really painting walking/taking public transit everywhere in a city as a plus?


I understand the concrete in all directions comment, and that is definitely a problem. As I look at some of America's big cities I think you can see the time frames where we valued open green space and incorporated that into the landscape and where we stopped doing that and let development proceed unchecked. In the Capital Hill neighborhood of DC they did an exceptional job of incorporating green space. Other parts of the city or in places like Baltimore and the newer parts of Philadelphia they didn't do a good job of that and its depressing.

Contract that with the sprawl in most sections of the northeast. Houses extend for miles with little to no public green space, except for a handful of county run parks that you drive to. Newer developments will try to incorporate parks more frequently, but generally they will all have parking lots because the only way to get to them in by car.

Both of those environments are a stark contrast to small town America which has a very different operation then either. Small towns are driveable, lower density then even the suburbs, and generally more pleasant to live in so long as they have the economic driver required to sustain them. Small towns have had their own problems with the rise of big cities and their suburbs, and I think they are a model that _could_ work if we as a nation set them up to succeed, but today all our regulations favor the bigger cities and towns and we have been watching the small towns die out


Yeah, small town is really nice to live in, with commercial zones nearby to get stuff from or have malls. Miles of houses with no green space sounds nearly as bad as the concrete. I don't think I've ever seen such a thing in person, though. I was thinking of where the houses are generally separated by a certain amount of trees/woods. It was easy to take for granted how nice of a place the Hudson Valley was to live until I had to move away in order to be within driving distance of my job. "All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River" is a quote attributed to FDR, and I really get where he was coming from nowadays.


Clean air, low noise, safety, land, large living spaces, nature, usually better schools. Unless you're living on farm land, suburbs are full of roaming children. I never had any issue with finding people to hang out with.


Its funny because across the country as the suburban community's age none of those things are true. I am thinking of my experience with Levitttown, PA where over time all those metrics you just said declined to the point where the city is much better in most regards then the suburban utopia, and the end result is a place that is worse for everyone then the city ever was.


You can cherry pick all you want, people move to the suburbs for a better quality of life.




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