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Do urban failings create suburban flight?

by Laura Williams, Center for Housing Policy

A few days ago, chatting with a friend who I consider to be similarly urban-minded, I was caught off guard when she said something along the lines of, “Well, when we move out to the suburbs in a few years….” She and her husband, of course, want more space and fewer neighbors, and in many ways are driven by the “tradition” of leaving the urban core when children come along for better schools. I was surprised that such a mindset existed in our generation, cocooned as I have been for the last several years in a world of high-rises and research related to the changing demand for dense, walkable neighborhoods. The desire for good schools, privacy and personal space is something we in housing should not forget.

But in much the opposite way, the conversation brought to mind a report I saw recently about building family-sized units in downtown Toronto—and the deputy mayor’s reaction against the project. This kind of attitude—that families don’t belong in cities—becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as of course families will not want to raise children downtown if there are no green spaces, no (or poor) schools and no apartments that can accommodate more than two people comfortably.

Like all things, we need balance. Perhaps in additional to mixed-use and mixed-income, we should be talking about mixed-size households in our neighborhoods.

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