Wednesday, October 30, 2013
October 2013 Newsletter: Book Review: "Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream"
Imagine taking a trip back to the early 20th century. The suburban homes, which currently account for over 50 percent of America’s housing, would be replaced with city blocks, downtown lofts and scattered houses along the countryside. Traffic would be virtually nonexistent and local business would be flourishing. Now, compare that to our modern mix of big box stores, identical houses and nearly abandoned cities.
Why did we decide to stray away from our original system that worked so well? By following the history of America’s largest cities, the authors explain how citizens following the American Dream are being crushed by large corporations and big box stores.
Years ago, at the peak of urbanization in America, people were given the opportunity to move from their outdated homes in the city. With the help of extremely inexpensive mortgage rates, people began to make what may have seemed like smart financial decisions. They realized they could trade in their older outdated houses, for much newer houses just outside the city, for a fraction of the price. After 30-40 years of this, entire cities have been left almost abandoned, and thus we have the effect of suburbanization.
Because citizens began moving into the suburbs, personal transportation became the social norm. Now, instead of walking to the nearest privately-owned hardware store, people are driving to mega-stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Walmart. Local business has no way to compete with large corporations. Not only can department stores hold more inventory, cut costs and provide more services, but they are so popular that it is hard to find the small privately-owned shops that have fewer funds for advertising.
So, is the American Dream a thing of the past? That is up to you. The last half of the book focuses on what we can do to keep the American Dream alive and our cities flourishing. Specific topics include zoning laws that need to be changed, supporting local business and finding ways to stay active in downtown areas. However, the best answer to the problem of keeping the American Dream alive is to simply move back into the city!
After reading this book I not only want to recommend it, I want to force it on others. The authors set the scene for what could be a very dull and scary future. So please, inform yourself by reading “Suburban Nation,” support local businesses or business accelerators (like us!) and don’t forget to pass it along to your friends, before it is too late!