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Opinion: How to End the War Over the Future of the Suburbs

Opinion: How to End the War Over the Future of the Suburbs

Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Salim Furth argues that in order to increase housing affordability, Americans need to embrace a vision of suburbia that includes growth and change.

For the past few years, the attitude that home structure should be mostly homogeneous — suburban, spread out, overly deferential to people who already own homes — has bubbled beneath the surface of America’s political rhetoric. Meanwhile, a constituency seeking more diverse, affordable housing in economically vibrant places keeps gaining traction. Most recently, several California cities have joined places like Minneapolis, Seattle and Oregon in chipping away at the single-family zoning regulations that have enshrined suburban-style detached homes as the dominant form of housing in America’s metros.    

Foes of such “upzoning” efforts often frame these reforms as existential threats to suburban life. Understanding President Joe Biden’s position on the matter will mean looking beyond this kind of rhetoric. How will his administration react as a growing number of states and cities tackle the affordability problem head-on? Is he willing to join local leaders in rethinking some of his suburban supporters’ sacred cows? 

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