Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Suburb slums? (Shhhh, don't tell Ballantyne)

I caught an intriguing "Urban Vs. Suburban" discussion on WFAE's Charlotte Talks this morning, interviewing Christopher Leinberger, author of the March 2008 article in The Atlantic magazine, "The Next Slum?"

His article opened with an anecdote from the Windy Ridge subdivision in northwest Charlotte. (A Charlotte Observer article later, in January 2009, reported that half the homes in Windy Ridge had been through foreclosure. And six months after, in July 2009, another Observer article said it's one of the neighborhoods hit so badly by foreclosures that Habitat for Humanity is buying the houses, now costing less than what Habitat would spend building a new one, and will rehab them and sell them to Habitat-worthy families.)

Also on the show was Jen Pilla Taylor, who wrote a piece for the January edition of Charlotte magazine, "Tale of Two Cities" in which she writes about the growing divide between urban and suburban parts of Charlotte.

"Much of the time, the two worlds are largely indifferent toward one another," she wrote. "Much of the suburban set is apathetic about the city, with many suburbanites rarely if ever visiting uptown unless they work there. Urban dwellers see the 'burbs as too far away, too rural, too cookie-cutter. But tensions bubble up in public spats fought primarily by activists and elected officials."

But Leinberger, a planning professor at the University of Michigan as well as a real estate developer, talked about the market forces and trends that, he has predicted, will bludgeon property values for suburban and ex-urban houses – due to oversupply and to a growing preference for "walkable" neighborhoods. He said on WFAE that the federal bailout of suburban housing has been much larger than the bank or auto industry bailouts. Interesting way to look at it. (This may buttress his point: A November 2008 Observer story reported, "Because it has such a high concentration of foreclosures and subprime mortgages, Charlotte is in line to get $5.4 million [in federal money] to help stabilize its neighborhoods.)

More recently, MSN Real Estate took on the same topic, "Is your suburb the next slum?" a sort of "Leinberger Lite" that quoted Leinberger and some of the same data.

All the articles make clear that not all suburban neighborhoods are the same and that many are thriving and will continue to. Nor do they present every urban neighborhood as nirvana.

But the data show that the more walkable areas with neighborhood centers of stores and workplaces are more likely to do better in the future real estate market than those made up only of auto-oriented single-family housing.

I guess we won't know whose predictions are coming to pass until the local real estate market revives.

33 comments:

Larry said...

Yes the suburbs are nothing but killers of souls.

Only by living in over priced boxes on top of each other, making an acre of land bring in extensive tax revenues for the toys the Observer and the downtown interests want, can one be enlightened.

If only those silly returning soldiers coming back after WWII had been taught right, we would have extensive metropolitan areas eclipsing our current ones by an incredible size.

For some reason the pursuit of the American Dream seemed reasonable to them. Thank you Observer for doing story after story showing us just how bad it is to live more than a couple of miles from down town Charlotte.

mbh said...

There are pros and cons for urban v.suburban areas depending on personal lifestyle preferences. It is clear that there is a market for both.

As the available inventory for both is absorbed and the housing markets start to return to normal, developers and planners will have the data which will drive future development.

I will be really surprised if speculative building doesn't becomes a thing of the past as it has in other states (i.e., CA). Hate to think that there will be another race to build grandiose condo projects like those in uptown which have gone to foreclosure and/or auction.

Larry said...

By the way tell Mike Collins of that early morning show hi for me.

He had me on his show for that Average Joe segment and his listeners all loved me.

Yeah right! I told the real truth about the bad schools, the tax drain his show had on my taxes and how bad the economy would become, among other subjects. He was never happier to see anyone live his little liberal nest in his life.

I would love to have another discussion with him and his cohorts.

Larry Bumgarner

Larry said...

Sorry: Should read Leave his little liberal nest

John said...

"If only those silly returning soldiers coming back after WWII had been taught right, we would have extensive metropolitan areas eclipsing our current ones by an incredible size."

Come on Larry. You know this is a red herring. Veterans and others made the choices that were available to them, and the massive subsidies the government allowed them to make. The FHA restricted loans to new structures and would not loan to fix up old ones. The HOLC redlined the downtown and closer-in neighborhoods as credit risks. Sure, cities would have grown out to some degree, but you certainly would not have seen the irresponsible growth and complete implosion of downtowns without massive government interference.

Why do you think slums in Europe and other parts of the world are largely in the suburbs?

The downtowns and close in areas in the US became so downtrodden that it left many who would have chosen the city life to pick the suburbs for understandable reasons. Now, you have two generations of people who think driving 25,000 miles a year and not being able to walk anywhere is 'normal.'

Isn't it great that people can now make the reasonable choice to live in a city?

And what's this stuff about boxes on top of each other? Apartments are quite sufficient for many people. But have you been to Dilworth, Sedgefield, Elizabeth, Plaza-Midwood? These were the original suburbs of the 1910s and 20s. They provide plenty of green space AND walkability. If future suburbs had been designed in such a fashion, we probably would not be having this discussion.

Ken said...

I live in the suburbs (Lake Wylie, SC, just across the river from Charlotte) and now live in a "walkable" community. Two strip shopping centers, a Lowes hardware and soon a Wal-Mart and two banks will be within a mile of my house. They came, however, at the expense of two other shopping centers built 25 years ago to service the other end of Lake Wylie, near River Hills. Those centers are now mostly vacant and the developer (Crescent) is bankrupt. Eyesores and trouble spots. I wonder how long I will have my little community, when the bean counters will decide it is more expedient to move on and leave the stores vacant. Harris Teeter, which anchored one of the now-vacant shopping centers, moved to Steele Croft and continued to pay rent at their abandoned location for years in order to keep any competing store from coming in. There are lots of moving parts to creating and maintaining a sustainable community.

Heather said...

This is the bottom line...we should all have options from suburban to urban and everything in between. However, those in the suburbs should pay their fair share. You all want to have the bigger house for less, but you also need to pay for the roads to support it, schools, trash, infrastructure, etc. Why is is that those outside of Charlotte pay less taxes. Pay your fair share and I will commend your efforts to live in the suburbs. Otherwise, quit sucking it out of those who are done supporting you.

Larry said...

"Heather said... This is the bottom line...we should all have options from suburban to urban and everything in between. However, those in the suburbs should pay their fair share. You all want to have the bigger house for less, but you also need to pay for the roads to support it, schools, trash, infrastructure, etc. Why is is that those outside of Charlotte pay less taxes. Pay your fair share and I will commend your efforts to live in the suburbs. Otherwise, quit sucking it out of those who are done supporting you.
2/23/2010 08:11:00 PM


As a member of the sole less suburban community, may we review the direction of the sucking you mention?

Gas taxes pay for roads. Property taxes pay for schools, infrastructure and the like. And the majority of retail sales takes place in the suburbs, so keep that in mind for those necessary sales taxes.

Of course we could live in other counties outside of Mecklenburg and our State taxes would then go to just those counties.

As an aside, keep in mind that the reason the City loves to annex is that they can get all those tax dollars, and the net is always a windfall for the city coffers.

Now is it not true that all the toys are located downtown, as well as all the pleasure venues and the like.

Are you saying the close to a billion dollar arena is something only those in the city paid for?

How about your train?

I think you will find we pay the lions share of all your toys and the very operation of the services you enjoy.

So while we will live out the never to be answered question of which life style is better, urban city dweller or bumpkin cousin.

Martin said...

Mary,

What is your issue with the Ballantyne community? We are people just like everybody else. I cannot afford to live in places like Dilworth or Myers Park and do not feel safe living in places like NoDa and Plaza Midwood. I can't believe the paper would stand for such slander of their own cirulation population. What is your agenda?

Dave T. said...

I'm a Charlotte native and I would much appreciate the cessation of bashing Charlotte about its "toys."

These things-the airport, light rail, center city arena, museums, performance halls, etc.-have given Charlotte a very commendable urban space.

Not every employer and not every employee wants the lowest-possible tax environment because that leads to the least urban fabric and amenities. Such environments may attract jobs, but not very high-paying ones and not very many of them.

Charlotte has a moderate tax burden for a city its size. Raleigh's property tax burden is less, but the state-us- pays for many of their "toys." Could we do better on taxes? Sure, and I am not looking forward to next year's revaluation. But if you don't want a city with these amenities, then choose a smaller city with lesser aspirations.

By the way, did anyone take the urbanist from Michigan to our many highly successful in-town neighborhoods? Or our highly successful middle-ring neighborhoods? Or our highly successful Ballantyne? No? Did it not fit the day's narrative?

Oh: I live close in, north of Fairview in a 50-year-old neighborhood that I love. It's rated "somewhat walkable" by walkscore.com

Larry said...

Ok keep your toys and I will not whine about you having too many and having to pay for them.

But we all have to realize that Charlotte grew to be the second largest banking center due to the fact we had great schools, low crime, good taxes and was the kind of place to raise your family.

I too am a native and can tell you that businesses want good well trained employees. Do you think our current school system is producing the future we all need?

Linnea said...

I'm also a native and if I had it to do over, I would have bought urban. The only advantage the suburbs have is shopping convenience. I live near the Rea/Ballantyne Commons intersection and this area of town utterly lacks soul unless boutique-hopping is your idea of entertainment. The middle school is excellent, but the elementary schools have been a mixed bag from wonderful to utter disappointment.

bai said...

I like living in my South Carolina subdivision with its low taxes.

We can walk all day in it and feel perfectly safe.

The air is clean, too.

Everything else we need is within a very short drive.

I'll take my chances on the future
right here, thank you.

Jumper said...

One complaint I have with already-built suburbia is the lawn care fetish. The overuse of fertilizers and herbicides leads to runoff, and fouls the waters and poisons wildlife. Inasmuch as this affects others' property as well as their own, it is decidedly not a "free market" issue.

J said...

I can see all sides of this. I live in "suburbia" - in Charlotte but near the dividing line between Charlotte and Matthews - but I live in a condo, or as Larry calls them, "boxes on top of each other."

There is one very stark disadvantage to condo living. There's not a single multi-family building in the world that is soundproofed. My new neighbors above me have 2 kids that regularly run wind sprints across their condo, stomping their feet as hard as they can as they run back and forth, over and over. Sometimes that makes me regret not buying a single-family house. On the other hand, I'd prefer urban living, but being an administrative assistant, I will never in my natural life be able live downtown - I'll just never be able to afford anything for $350 a square foot.

I think the best thing is that if we have choices - a thriving urban core and good suburbs. It's never a good thing to force people into one "preferred" lifestyle.

Downhome said...

Just more elitist propaganda from the Observer. How silly and selfish of me to live in sububia in a neighborhood I love.

consultant said...

Suburb slums?

Right around the corner.

Theo Tiefwald said...

"the Windy Ridge subdivision in northwest Charlotte. (A Charlotte Observer article later, in January 2009, reported that half the homes in Windy Ridge had been through foreclosure."

Can someone please clarify what the racial composition of that particular neighborhood was? As I understand it most of the people who lived in Windy Ridge subdivision were 'low-income,' i.e. non-White people of color, mostly African Americans.

That fact being established, do you all think that anything do to with the very high foreclosure rate there?

Theo Tiefwald said...

mbh:"As the available inventory for both is absorbed and the housing markets start to return to normal"

HA! Ain't gonna happen, bub. Barring a miracle or three, there will be no 'recovery.'

There will never again be "normal" in the 21st Century USA. This nation is currently on a permanent downward projectory that only a complete and rather radical overhaul of many things could prevent. That overhaul is likely never going to happen, so we will continue to decline.

The decline will be gradual, not sudden. There will be a few bright spots here and there, but right now we are living through the 'Big Slide,' or 'the Decline of The West.'

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Decline_of_the_West

Theo Tiefwald said...

I will also note that if a select few suburban neighborhoods are becoming a bit slummier, it is because a lot of 'slummy folks' are currently being pushed out of inner-city neighborhoods and out in to the suburbs by White urban yuppie types who then take over the former neighborhoods of the slummers and gentrify them.

Theo Tiefwald said...

"But the data show that the more walkable areas with neighborhood centers of stores and workplaces are more likely to do better in the future real estate market than those made up only of auto-oriented single-family housing."

Walkable city neighborhoods are just as dependent as many suburbs on the food trucked in using gasoline power. Not to mention all of the water piped in from afar.

With the majority of America's most productive working, tax-paying, and family-oriented citizens currently residing in the suburbs, I'd keep my bets on them for the time being. The suburbs also have the best/closest access to the countryside where all of the food is grown.

But the fact is that if the suburbs decline, the cities will decline as well. The whole American nation is in decline, all geographical areas both urban, suburban, and rural.

consultant said...

"As I understand it most of the people who lived in Windy Ridge subdivision were 'low-income,' i.e. non-White people of color, mostly African Americans."

There you have it folks. The latest analysis of metro economics from the KKK School of Public Policy, Mein Kampf University.

consultant said...

Theo Tiefwald,

You are our grand prize winner!!!!*

For the most outrageous posts of the new year, you get:

-a lifetime gift certificate to attend the "Books and Babies" program at the Public Library of Charlotte

-in addition to this opportunity to learn how to read, you get a weeks vacation in Kabul, Afghanistan.

*As a winner, you are not allowed to comment again in 2010. Airfare & hotel are paid for by the Dipstick Corp., but gratuities, liquor, strippers, drugs, bail money and bribes are the responsibility of the contest winner.

Brendan said...

"The Decline of the West" was written by Oswald Spengler in post-WW I Germany, of course he thought the world was going down the toilet (and he was right for his forseeable future). He also supported strong dictatorships over democracy and was a strong supporter of Hitler's rise to power.

I would put little stock in his disgruntled theories...

Jumper said...

While I have no idea of Theo's inner mental life, it is true that blacks have been hurt by this downturn far worse than others.

Karl said...

So, Mary, when are you planning to delete Consultant's insulting posts (10:33 AM, 11:08 AM)?

Or are you going to maintain the usual double standard?

consultant said...

Karl,

Okay. Okay. I get it. You want a prize too.

consultant said...

Karl,

I just checked. The "Books and Babies" program is full. They've had a lot of staffing cut backs.

But, we can get you on the next flight to Kabul.

Karl said...

Actually, Consultant, all I want is some consistency with how Mary wields her censoring axe.

You can take your "prize" and put it where the Sun don't shine.

consultant said...

Karl,

Have you had your shots?

Theo Tiefwald said...

If I were an unethical real estate magnate, I would encourage people (especially racial minorities) to sell drugs and start gangs in the city, thus leading to White flight. Then I would buy up the city real estate at slum prices and hire a new police department to force out the drug dealers. Then I would re-gentrify with incoming young Whites from the suburbs and reap usurious profits.

Theo Tiefwald said...

Take a look at the work of Catherine Austin Fitts on the relationship between drug gangs and developers. The scam works like this:

Send drugs into a neighborhood. As the people who can move out to flee the crime, property values drop. Buy up lots of property dirt cheap. Then elect a new police chief and get rid of the gangs and drugs. Open a trendy bar for young Whites and gentrify the neighborhood.

This has happened in city after city around America since the 1970s. Someone here or a related blog mentioned that Whites gave up extremely valuable urban properties during the White Flight era and traded it for crappy cheap suburban land on the outskirts of the metro areas.

In many places urban areas were then regentrified and the kids of the White Flight generation are paying rent or buying their parents generation’s old homes for ten times what their parents sold for.

This is not a coincidence, this is a coordinated 'business.'

In certain cases (like during the 1980s in California) it was assisted by federal policy.

Catherine Austin Fitts and Gary Webb told this story, and Webb was murdered for it.

Theo Tiefwald said...

consultant:"The latest analysis of metro economics from the KKK School of Public Policy, Mein Kampf University."

Congrats 'consultant,' you are the grand prize winner of Godwin's Grand Prize for this blog! -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law