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Excerpted from "The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving" by Leigh Gallagher. Copyright © 2013 Leigh Gallagher. Reprinted with permission of Portfolio Hardcover. All rights reserved.

Excerpted from "The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving" by Leigh Gallagher. Copyright © 2013 Leigh Gallagher. Reprinted with permission of Portfolio Hardcover. All rights reserved.

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Excerpted from "The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving" by Leigh Gallagher. Copyright © 2013 Leigh Gallagher. Reprinted with permission of Portfolio Hardcover. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from "The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving" by Leigh Gallagher. Copyright © 2013 Leigh Gallagher. Reprinted with permission of Portfolio Hardcover. All rights reserved.

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Published by: wamu8850 on Aug 06, 2013
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05/14/2014

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When I set out to write a book in the spring of 2011, I originally planned to explore thefuture of our economy and how the aftereffects of the financial crisis would bring permanent changes to various aspects of our lives. But the more I researched, the more Idiscovered that the most dramatic shift involved where and how we choose to live—and it wasn’t a result of the Great Recession at all. Rather, the housing crisis only concealed something deeper and more profound happening to what we have come to know asAmerican suburbia. Simply speaking, more and more Americans don’t want to live thereanymore.The reasons are varied, but several disparate factors all point to a decrease in demand for traditional suburban living: many Americans are tiring of the physical aspect of thesuburbs, the design of which has changed dramatically over the years to gradually spread  people farther and farther apart from one another and the things they like to do, makingthem increasingly reliant on their cars and, increasingly, on Thelma and Louise –lengthcommutes. Big demographic shifts are seeing our population grow older, younger, and more diverse seemingly all at once, while powerful social trends are shrinking and transforming the American nuclear family, long the dominant driver of suburbia. An epicfinancial crisis coupled with the rising cost of energy has made punishing commutes alsounaffordable, while a new- found hyperawareness of environmental issues has shaken upand re-ordered our priorities in ways that stand in direct conflict to the suburban way of life.This has all been happening for years, but it’s now being backed up by data. The rate of suburban population growth has outpaced that of urban centers in every decade since theinvention of the automobile, but in 2011, for the first time in a hundred years, that trend reversed. Construction permit data shows that in several cities, building activity that wasonce concentrated in the suburban fringe has now shifted primarily to cities, or what planners call the “urban core.” At the same time, demand for the large, single-familyhomes that characterize the suburbs is dwindling, and big suburban home builders likeToll Brothers are saying their best markets are now cities.Many of the builders present at the NAHB show in Orlando know this and have started changing the way they do business. Like Ralston, they’ve started breaking their own bones by tearing up old floor plans, adjusting land acquisition strategies, and shiftingtheir focus to include smaller houses and more urban developments. “Gone are the master  bathrooms you can land planes in,” said Boyce Thompson, the editorial director of theBuilder group of magazines at the housing research and publishing firm Hanley Wood,during a presentation on market trends. Many of the attendees took part in educationalsessions on “multifamily” housing units, design strategies for a shifting market, and thechanging preferences of the new home buyer. During one such session, the audiencewatched an ad for builder Shea Homes’ new “Spaces” line in which pleasant-lookingsuburbanites talked about what they wanted in their new homes. “A typical home in thesuburbs for me?” one house- wife asks. “It’s just not the way things are done anymore.”The 2012 annual Builder magazine “concept home,” at the show, always an important barometer of where housing trends are headed, was instead a series of three differenthomes targeted to three different generations, all featuring smaller—or “right-sized,”

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