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A suburban comeback?

Posted by Scott Van Voorhis October 10, 2012 08:51 AM

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Ultimately, people vote with their feet - by where they choose to live. And by that measure, suburban living is back, a new study finds.

While the hipster hotspots such as Davis Square are almost exclusively urban, the majority of new households in Greater Boston are being formed in the suburbs or in suburban-like areas within various city lines, according to a just released analysis of postal service data by Trulia.

In the Boston area, urban neighborhoods saw growth of .27 percent in new households from September 2011 to September 2012, while less dense, more suburban areas grew at more than twice the pace, by .63 percent, according to Trulia.

In fact, only five of the 50 major markets tracked did the number of urban households grow faster over the past year than their suburban counterparts, a group that predictably includes New York and Chicago as well as San Jose and Memphis.

Of course, the way Trulia tracks the suburban/urban divide is rather nontraditional, by population density rather than location within a particular city limit.

When the issue is looked at through this lens, it really becomes a referendum on density more than anything else.

Here's what Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia, wrote in an email the other day:

Are cities making a comeback? No. Even after the housing bust, Americans continue to move to the suburbs. This morning we posted a report based on Postal Service data - which are current, detailed, and actual counts rather than estimates -- showing that suburban neighborhoods grew twice as fast as urban neighborhoods in the past year.

Still, I think is a more complicated picture than that. Yes, the suburbs may still be king, but many suburbanites also want to be near the amenities of a downtown, even if it's just the shops and restaurants in Hingham or Needham center. Walkability is king - I see no nostalgia for wood paneled station wagons and isolated subdivisions where you have to drive to get anywhere.

So are the suburbs truly king and all the talk about downtown revivals just more hot air? Where would you rather live? Are you dreaming of a suburban escape - of a big lawn and tree-lined streets? Or is downtown living more your thing?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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