Does An Aging Population Spell The End Of Suburbia?

Matt Yglesias highlights one trend, aging,  to posit another trend, a return to urbanism. From what he says, I doubt if he has ever been to Frisco, McKinney, or Southlake. He certainly never has had to drive kids to the only great soccer fields around, which are in Plano.  However, I did note two interesting comments. One makes the point that some suburbs are becoming self-contained urban centers in themselves, and if the urban trend is true, it will take place in pods like those as well as in core cities. The other notes that aging suburbs are already being infilled by the poor, which is a trend we are seeing here.


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11 responses to “Does An Aging Population Spell The End Of Suburbia?”

  1. Jean Valjean says:

    How is the immigration of the poor to suburbia any news? It happens all the time. Affluent people move out to suburbs, but they want to have grocery stores and fast food and other “service” industries. Those are manned by – you guessed it – poor people. At the beginning those people commute, but soon someone sees the opportunity, and apartments go up.
    Poor people can now afford housing where they work, so they move to the suburbs.
    Happens all the time.

  2. John M says:

    I’m going to propose another, even bigger question, is the return to urbanism and the rise of full-service high-rise a return to the servant class?

    Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with full-time and live-in help, the servants never went away but is it becoming more socially acceptable again?

    Tonight I drove up to my condo building and our porter practically begged if he could assist me with getting my two plastic grocery bags and briefcase up to my home before opening two doors for me on the way to the elevator. Ask the aging people embracing the urban lifestyle and they will cite things like not having a yard to maintain, and having assistance getting their groceries in the home and not having to park their car and having lots of options for having food delivered to their house or going out to eat and it’s not just the aging, it’s the new urban professionals as well.

    Have we returned to the idea that the affluent, even the middle/upper-middle class, have the expectation and the resources to do away with the simple tasks of every day life that they had embraced in suburbia for that McMansion and instead prefer to employee a large group of people for the simple tasks in life like parking themselves in a parking garage, a task they think nothing of doing for themselves at their place of employment?

    It begs the question to me, with our return to urban lifestyle, is it coming with the widespread expectation that in exchange for giving up the big yard and big house that someone else should park our cars, help us with our groceries and open our doors for us? I would never consider making the requests at my place of employment that I expect and ask of my condo employees without hesitation.

  3. Peter S. says:

    Pods? Perhaps you mean “towns.”

    John M touches on a good point: is there a difference between “urban living” and “lifestyle living.” Another downside of this trend is that this new “servant class” lacks the dignity of position that the old order afforded (c.f. a New York City doorman on Central Park West or <a href=”″
    this guy).

    Then again, the aging, increasing poorer inner-ring suburbs aren’t devoid of urban life. There are many pockets in Richardson, for example, (probably Belt Line is the most visible) where lives can be walk-able and ethnic shops and eateries abound. The same can be said about areas of Irving. These areas may not look like the picture of an urban city (like many of the new faux-urban centers do), but they are perhaps more “urban” in how they functions.

  4. Jason says:

    My wife and I would fall into that mold. We left Plano 10 years ago for North Oak Cliff. Hands down best decision we ever made. Less traffic, front porch community where neighbors all hang out and talk/drink wine on front porches, local restaurants and stores all within a 5 minute bicycle ride, downtown amenities like art museums/farmers market/music all within a 10 minute drive. and yes, even great schools. Could never go back at this point.

  5. maudlin says:

    I would love to see more thoughtful comments like this from the editorial staff. Thanks for the post, Wick.

  6. Bill says:

    I wondered where the low paid service workers(immigrants) live, that do much of the domestic work in Frisco and West Plano. I thought there was no way they would drive from Dallas everyday to clean homes or mow grass. Turns out many of them live in shanty town settlements on the outskirts of these suburbs in old trailers and collections of mobile homes in unincorporated Denton County. Oak Point, Texas is such a place. Completely invisible society.

    Irving, Farmers Branch and Richardson will never see the rebirth that other former dead neighborhoods came back from. Oak Cliff and the M-Streets/Lower Greenville are coming back because the homes are so well built. Northern suburbs(built in the 60s/70s) have homes that will not last another 20 years. They are toast.

  7. Antonio says:

    Ditto Bill @ 11:59. If I had half a mil to drop on a home in the M Streets I’d do it in a heatbeat. Then I’d sit back and watch it appreciate.

    I just simply believe Dallas (like all cities) is going to continue to re-urbanize. Lakewood, North Oak Cliff, Oak Lawn neighborhoods south of Love; these are all going to see property appreciation over the long term at the expense of the ‘burbs.

  8. amanda says:

    Interesting, but real estate (com/res) tends to ebb and flow in 20 to 25 year cycles. Overall, metro areas are simply getting larger. Outlying areas are now suburbs. All will grow, peak, decline and revitalize. Residents who move in on the early point of a peak cycle can enjoy up to 20 years in one area. It’s all cyclical.

  9. mediawonk says:

    There are exceptions to the rule, as always. West Richardson is blessed with abundant 50s housing stock that is well-built and easily reconfigurable due to the pier-and-beam construction; couple that with neighborhoods that have been well-maintained and risen in value (and good schools compared to other inner-ring suburbs) and it’s much better off than most of its type. East Richardson is struggling a bit more, but the city is trying hard to reverse that trend.

  10. Amy S says:

    The Presbyterian Hospital area has seen thousands of low-income units torn down, from Walnut Hill to Meadow along both sides of Central. Where did these people go? The developments seem to be on “pause” for now but we already have “mixed use – the homestyle version” in many of our north Dallas neighborhoods.

    The Preston/Forest intersection has over 20 places to eat, and now that the city has installed sidewalks on Preston (tho’ they are pitifully narrow) foot and bike traffic to the two grocery stores has increased greatly. If I wanted to, I could walk to the Mercury for a martini! (IJS). Preston/Royal is very similar, with closely located apartments (at the Tollway) and places to shop for groceries, eat,

    And in a wonderful improvement Dart has started placing shade/rain shelters for those who are waiting for buses – long overdue.

    Now if we could just get the city to turn Hillcrest into 2 lanes with a wide bike lane that would be like whipped cream topping.

  11. Daniel says:

    1. Sorry, Amy, you haven’t convinced me that Preston Forest or Preston Royal are walkable urban neighborhoods. In fact, I respectfully submit that the suggestion is preposterous. These are quintessential suburban shopping centers, and the occasional, forlorn pedestrian must be prepared to dodge vehicles as he hikes across a sea of parked cars. It’s nice you can walk to the Mercury, though. I like that place.

    2. The M.O. that led to decaying inner-ring suburbs is still alive and well: namely, to build houses on the cheap on the edge of the metropolitan area. In less than the span of an average mortgage term, the houses are crap, and new, shiny-at-first cheap houses must be constructed on the ever-further edge. This applies to 6,000-square-foot McMansions as well as to more modest housing stock. These homes are, in essence, disposable.