Exurbs: ‘Tomorrow’s Low-Income Housing?’

As the housing bust and recession has turned the exurbs from engines of growth to economic laggards, many [families who bought recently] have the worst of both worlds. They are still on the fringes but have no equity. In many cases the amenities they hoped would follow — new shopping centers, movie theatres — have ceased construction or opened with only a few stores. Government projects like new schools and parks have also been delayed as budgets get cut and population growth has slowed.

–Conor Dougherty, “In the Exurbs, the American Dream Is Up for Rent“; The Wall Street Journal (3/31/09)

If high gas prices put the brakes on far-flung suburban developments — dubbed “exurb’s” — wouldn’t dropping prices logically revive them?

Well, no.

Even though gas is much cheaper, no one knows for how long. Like Hummers, homes that are long commutes from city centers are still very much out of favor (the WSJ article quoted above focused on metro Chicago).

Another problem is that the recession has laid low all the ancillary development that was supposed to arrive after the housing was in place. Now, private developers, government, and even billion-dollar companies such as Target are scaling back infrastructure and expansion plans. So, the promised amenities never arrived.

The combination of these factors has socked exurban property values, driving a disproportionate number of Buyers into foreclosure. In many cases, the foreclosed homeowners simply become renters nearby.

Mix together half-built subdivisions, long commutes, lots of foreclosures, a high percentage of rental properties, few (or non-existent) services . . . and the picture is not especially bright.

According to the Journal, that’s why “some observers believe the growth of rental property is the first in a series of steps that will transform today’s exurbs into tomorrow’s low-income housing.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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