This future is not likely to wear well on suburban housing. Many of the inner-city neighborhoods that began their decline in the 1960s consisted of sturdily built, turn-of-the-century row houses, tough enough to withstand being broken up into apartments, and requiring relatively little upkeep. By comparison, modern suburban houses, even high-end McMansions, are cheaply built. Hollow doors and wallboard are less durable than solid-oak doors and lath-and-plaster walls. The plywood floors that lurk under wood veneers or carpeting tend to break up and warp as the glue that holds the wood together dries out; asphalt-shingle roofs typically need replacing after 10 years. Many recently built houses take what structural integrity they have from drywall—their thin wooden frames are too flimsy to hold the houses up.

Chris Leinberger, Brookings Institute: via the Atlantic. The boom fueled substandard construction methods as homebuilders raced to introduce inventory, home-buyers raced to buy it up: there’s a lot of Chinese dry-wall out there. Though Leinberger’s analysis is appealing on the age-old question of the merits of the country or the city, it may not follow exactly in the way he presents. Leinberger’s analysis raises the question of how suburbs with older, similar vintage housing-stock will fare. He reserves his comparison to one between older urban and newer suburban homes, but he excludes categories such as the durable housing stock of older suburbs that were constructed with similar methods and materials as the urban homes he reveres. Where would these fit in his analysis? Do they follow his analysis and go the way of a general sclerosis of the suburbs, or are they singularly appealing and require him to reconsider his analysis?

Advertisements