Resurrecting the Economy…Sustainable!

In my last blog “What to do about the Economy?”  I was saying “we need ‘sustainable mixed use, mixed income neighborhoods, with lifelong learning and open space…..everywhere’ “. Let me explain that a bit.

In 2006, Arthur C Nelson has been warning that the over supply of large lot suburban homes will be 22 million by 2025.  Currently, $1.2 trillion dollars of commercial is underwater, with leases due to renew between now and 2013.  Much of this commercial, as I understand it, serves the outer reaches of suburbia, the very same neighborhoods where the majority of residential foreclosures have occurred.  So with all this oversupply, you might ask, how can I claim “We need sustainable mixed use, mixed income neighborhoods, with lifelong learning and open space….everywhere?”

Well, simply put…”It’s the Boomers, and their children, the Millennials!”  Turns out in surveys, 1/3 of the Boomers (24 million or so) want a simpler, walkable lifestyle.  And 88% of the Millennials (27 million???) want a more vibrant alive urban kind of lifestyle.

If all these demographic surveys are accurate, all we have to do to Resurrect the Economy is build higher density, vibrant alive, mixed use, mixed income neighborhoods!…

Ah but this is easier said than done. We are deeply entrenched in the past. For the last 50-60 years we’ve gotten good at mass producing sprawl suburbia, the American Dream of a car (or three) in every driveway, and a chicken in every pot:  A TV in every room,  a pool table in every den, a microwave in every kitchen, and credit cards for all; mobility, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness!    Just as we got into the habit of charging stuff when we wanted it, with this version of the American Dream we ran up a huge tab in environmental and social costs. Can we break out of our status quo and change?

When President Obama spoke recently in the State of the Union Address about Americans innovating our future, this is where the rubber meets the road. Can we change our vision of the American Dream? Can we overcome 60 years of our love affair with fossil fuels and retool our housing production capacity into mixed use, mixed income, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods?

I bet we will, because above all, this is how we will Resurrect our Economy. One third of the Boomers want less consumption and more quality. 80% of the Millennials aren’t all that thrilled at owning a car.

“The future is ours to win” declared Barak and I agree! All we have to do is make sustainability real!

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