The Hidden Facts About the Suburbs

For many people, the image of a perfect life consists of owning a modest home within the suburbs and living happily with their families. Over the past few decades, we have seen a shift in living preferences; while living in dense city centers was once a common preference, the widespread implementation of low-cost single-family housing has led to changing ideals for the typical American family. In modern-day societies, many potential home buyers see the suburbs as being inherently advantageous, and some will even fail to consider purchasing an urban home. However, the suburbs do bring along a plethora of negative effects – a list of which I have complied below.

  1. Suburban expansion leads to urban sprawl. This effect is perhaps not-so-hidden. It is widely known that the development of suburbs is a direct component of urban sprawl, which brings along with it an entire host of effects – namely, increased traffic congestion and transportation costs.
  2. Suburban homes are far more polluting than their urban counterparts. According to research from the University of California, Berkeley, the predominantly suburban Bay Area city of Atherton , California has a per-household pollution score that is more than four times that of downtown San Francisco. Interestingly, high-wealth suburban areas tend to be the worst offenders, with this carbon footprint map showing that city centers and poorer areas have a much lower carbon footprint than wealthy suburbs of urban areas.
  3. The suburbs are causing infrastructure costs to rise. In low-density suburban areas, roads and utilities must be stretched over a greater distance. This results in higher costs to the taxpayer, offsetting the savings from buying a suburban home. The City of Edmonton has determined that over the next 30 years, suburban sprawl will actually cost taxpayers more than the expansion will provide in revenues.
  4. The suburbs are hurting our health. Most Americans are aware that obesity is becoming an increasingly prominent issue in the United States. This is generally attributed to our unhealthy eating habits and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. However, people generally fail to make the connection between their residences and their health. Suburban neighborhoods are often lacking in walkability, and most residents of these neighborhoods rely on personal vehicles to get to where they need to go. These factors lead to these health problems described above.

Of course, the suburbs also offer positive benefits, such as a lower cost of entry and an increase of privacy. For some, these factors may outweigh the negatives. But for others, knowing the entire truth may affect their home-buying decision.  Ultimately, I would suggest extensively researching the pros and cons of each type of living environment if or when you are considering buying a new home.

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  • Casey

    I hadn’t thought about the health aspect, but you’re right. I live in neo-traditional neighborhood of a suburb and pretty much everything- food, library, parks, even walmart- is within walking distance. I chose to live here because my office is here and not in the city. I guess I lucked out and got the best of both worlds.

    • I live on a college campus, so practically everything is close by, which is nice. But before going to college I lived in a fairly rural area, which required a 15-30 minute drive to get practically anywhere. Unsurprisingly, I prefer living in the city.

  • Jessie

    I always wanted to live in rural areas – these are good reasons why I should.