Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Planning for a more diverse future with a diversity of housing …

[“New Suburbia”: This is one of a series on the changing aspects of suburbia.]

  While most reports have emphasized the demand aspects of the home mortgage crisis -– homebuyers of meager means were given the ability by lenders to buy middle-class houses –- another way to look at the issue is from the “supply” side:  High housing costs steered many homebuyers into risky loans for houses that, upon reflection, they could not afford.  One way to avoid a repetition of this problem is for suburbs to offer more low-cost housing. 

Libertyville    A handful of suburbs outside Chicago (not the most affluent, of course) are touting their efforts to plan for a greater variety of housing types over the next quarter-century.  In particular, a recent report, published through Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, notes that seniors and Latinos will constitute much of the growth in the area’s population, and that these groups will “likely seek out small single-family homes, townhomes and apartment units in larger complexes” –- the kind of housing that is not provided for in many suburbs, in large part because of the restrictions of land use law. (And there are more than 200 local jurisdictions in Chicagoland!).  The report was discussed in a recent issue of the Economist.   

  The Chicago metro organizations have also published maps for workforce housing, showing where, for example, a local firefighter can afford to live.  While a firefighter can afford to rent (if not own) in many of the affluent old north shore suburbs, the situation is worse in the outer suburbs.  I suspect that this is because the old suburbs, many of which were built up before 1950, include a greater variety of housing stock, with greater density, than in newer areas.  But this has not made today’s suburbanites shun these north shore suburbs …

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