Build a Better Suburban Neighborhood

Transform suburban neighborhood to super-urban communities.

| August/September 2004

  • Eco-village
    Many suburban residents say they long for a stronger sense of community.
    Photo courtesy Fotolia/Konstantin L

  • Eco-village

Imagine your neighborhood with less traffic, better walking paths and large community gardens. Even better, wouldn’t it be nice to know more people on your block who would pitch in to help fix your car, watch your children or lend you the tools you need to finish that backyard deck?

Many suburban residents say they long for a stronger sense of community. In fact, a 2002 Fannie Mae study on affordable housing not only found that people overwhelmingly prefer living in a desirable community to owning a desirable house, it also noted that those interviewed about their homes referred more often to the community or neighborhood than to the residence.

But the modern suburbs, designed to accommodate the car and maximize private space, have too often neglected the important quality of community. The resulting housing developments contribute to traffic congestion and urban sprawl, while suburban lifestyles require ever-increasing amounts of money, energy and resources to maintain.

I think there’s a better way. What if we created new centers of business, recreation and art right in our neighborhoods, with slower traffic, more public space and more opportunities for cooperation and support? These possibilities are within our grasp. Across the country, people are working together to make some refreshing changes to their neighborhoods.

Saving Time and Money 

For the last eight years, living in a friendly, close-knit community in Golden, Colo., has saved me money on gas, parking, food, medical bills, insurance premiums and other expenses, not to mention a lot of stress on the highways. Because I work at home, walk to stores for exercise, and have friends and recreation (a large community garden) in my neighborhood, I’m not even driving enough to keep my car’s battery charged. Luckily, I’m able to borrow my neighbor’s battery charger, which I’ve done several times.

The typical U.S. household spends about 19 percent of its disposable income on transportation, and we each average 450 hours in our cars and trucks every year! But when more of what we need is right in our neighborhoods, we may get in the car 10 times a week rather than 10 times a day.

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