The return of the cities

Peak Oil / Religion

I’ve been worried about this for sometime now. What happens when the suburban lifestyle begins to be no longer sustainable because of energy costs? Well for one thing, the real estate industry will collapse.

The New York Times has an article this weekend that locates the proximate cause of the Great Recession in the growing re-urbanization trend:

“It was predominantly the collapse of the car-dependent suburban fringe that caused the mortgage collapse.

In the late 1990s, high-end outer suburbs contained most of the expensive housing in the United States, as measured by price per square foot, according to data I analyzed from the Zillow real estate database. Today, the most expensive housing is in the high-density, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of the center city and inner suburbs. Some of the most expensive neighborhoods in their metropolitan areas are Capitol Hill in Seattle; Virginia Highland in Atlanta; German Village in Columbus, Ohio, and Logan Circle in Washington. Considered slums as recently as 30 years ago, they have been transformed by gentrification.

Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered.”

More here.

The article describes this decision to move into the urban centers as being driven by a preference at this point. What happens when it becomes a necessity?

Are we Episcopalians investing enough capital and resources in our inner city parishes to be ready for this? Thanks be to God for the foresight of the people of Arizona who refused to close Trinity Cathedral at a time when the downtown of Phoenix was an abandoned war zone. The congregation of 20 then has now grown to be nearly 1500 over two decades. A parishioner who was a member in the old days (1950’s) that we talk of as the boom years in the congregation says that even at the height back then, it was not nearly as exciting and vibrant as it is today.

We probably have much more of a future in the inner city and historic suburbs than we imagine. But we’re going to have to be ready for it.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...

1 Comment

  1. I think you’re missing the important “most expensive housing” message there. What’s about to happen, it looks like to me, is that – as has already happened in Europe – the suburbs are going to become poverty zones.

    Many people can’t afford to move to the city anymore; it’s too expensive now. IOW, it’s poor people in the suburbs who are going to be going to church, not the wealthy elites in the cities. THAT’s the reversal is going to be like, as far as I can tell.

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