NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Don't Cross Off Older Suburbs

November 27, 2001

Contrary to the myth that older suburbs inevitably become the victims of further urban sprawl, some experts point out that many older neighborhoods are actually transforming themselves into thriving, ethnically diverse cities.

While some established suburbs are showing real signs of decline, other older areas are thriving. For example,

  • Rents for office space are projected to increase faster than regional averages in such areas as Dekalb County near Atlanta and the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California.
  • Vacancy rates for multifamily residences are expected to be lower than regional averages in the Bellaire/Harwin area of Houston, Santa Clara County in California, Dekalb County and the San Gabriel Valley.
  • South Pasadena -- just 15 miles east of Los Angeles -- saw assessed property valuations increase by 20 percent from 1995 to 2000, significantly higher than the countywide average of 16.5 percent.
  • An analysis of 82 cities in Los Angeles County found no significant relationship between the distance from the city's center and the growth in suburban property values.

The authors conclude that it is the quality of a community, and the commitment of local people to enhance that quality, that make the critical difference between the success and failure of older suburban areas.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Older Suburbs: Crabgrass Slums or New Urban Frontier," Policy Study 285, Reason Public Policy Institute, September 2001, 3415 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Suite 400, Los Angeles, Calif. 90034, (310) 391-2245.


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