All of the land under development in Otsego was already slated for housing when the bust arrived, and the developers buying these surplus lots today are getting a better bargain because some of the work of planning and grading had already been completed. The cost difference has sweetened the deal for buyers who are willing to take on a longer commute for more house. But when it comes to breaking ground on new projects, developers are still focused on land closer to the city.
Some experts say it is only a matter of time before they work their way back out. But others, like Leigh Gallagher, the author of “The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving,” argue that the return of the housing market does not mean the return of sprawl. In her 272-page book, Ms. Gallagher marshals demographic, economic and anecdotal evidence.
Couples are marrying later and having smaller families — by 2025, she says, the majority of suburban households are expected to have no children. Teenagers are increasingly opting to go without driver’s licenses. Millennials, economically strapped and witness to the housing crisis, say they prefer to live in urban environments. Boomers are reconsidering their large houses and landscaped yards.
The price of sprawl has become increasingly undeniable. Moderate-income families have seen their transportation costs balloon to more than a quarter of their income. Cities have discovered that low-density developments fail to pay for their own infrastructure. More recently, a new study of economic mobility suggested that sprawl, and its accompanying lack of transportation options, prevented access to higher paying jobs.