Aaron - putting in a plug for your past urban policy work - how much of the decline are we seeing as the inevitable cresting of the wave of suburban development patterns that are slowly bankrupting to municipalities?

Do you see this as a meaningful factor in the decline of places that seemed quite prosperous when they were new, but now seem in decline? Conspicuously, right around the time that their Boomer infrastructure reaches the end of its lifecycle...



A place like Spokane or Lafayette wakes up and realizes that all of the free state and federal highway infrastructure of decades past now carries a maintenance price tag that their tax base will never support.

Debt and more Ponzi scheme development (more revenue now, off-balance sheet liabilities for later) forestall the inevitable. Eventually there is no money to prop up the illusion of prosperity. Taxes increases, services decrease - welcome to the descending world.

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I love Chuck and Strong Towns but think he's unduly pessimistic about the sustainability of suburbs. It took over 50 years of decline for Detroit to go bankrupt, and even then it only did so because the governor forced it. There will be plenty of suburban zombies, but I think quite a few places will do just fine. Remember, not long ago all the writing was about how baby boomer retirements and downsizing meant a glut of McMansions. Now the housing market is on fire everywhere.

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Apr 25, 2022Liked by Aaron M. Renn

We should budget something for the intentional inflation of the housing market. Some amount of it is fake, created not by real prosperity but artificial incentives. The problem is no one knows how much.

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