Key Features of Suburban Development Explained

Suburban Settlements

Are you curious about knowing how big cities contained the bulk of the population, especially after the second world war when their accommodation capacity got close to getting exhausted? This article is just the right place to slake your curiosity.

Let us begin with what suburbs actually are and what makes them so special in the urban planning front.

What are suburbs?

Residential Units in Suburbs

Suburban area (contracted as a suburb) refers to low-density developments on the urban fringe with unobstructed access to the metropolis via the transportation network. They are basically, urban neighborhoods that are geographically present between the urban focus and the rural periphery.

Owing to the location of such settlements, they are a blend of rural and urban living. On one hand, the suburbs provide a connecting route to access the urban centers, universities, large markets, schools and hospitals, and all the frontline urban luxuries. On the flip side, these suburbs are a reflection of rural life in terms of connectivity to nature and tranquility.

The size of the suburban landscape varies from place to place. Sometimes, they are legally a part of the metropolis and are smaller in size. Other times, they can cover a large area on the ground and are not a part of the main city but the distance is commutable.

How Did the Suburbs Come into Existence?

The suburban development began at a juncture when a developed city’s population count embarked on a road to exponential hikes. The population spike in an urban area is not necessarily an outcome of an increased population growth rate.

This means that the population count can also show a marked spike when people begin to migrate to urban areas in search of better employment opportunities and living standards. As a conspicuous consequence, the city begins to expand in the radial direction in order to accommodate the bulk of people.

Settlements then begin to grow in number on the outskirts of the city and these areas, though being connected with the mainland, are not essentially a part of the urban locus, and are termed suburban areas or suburbs.

The Urban Sprawl vs The US Economy

Before jumping into the impact of urban sprawl on the economy, it is important to know what ‘urban sprawl’ exactly refers to.

Urban sprawl refers to an urban area spreading out just like the branches emanating from a tree. In other words, when a city pushes its geographical borders to expand in the outward direction, we may call it an urban sprawl.

The United States of America leads the world in suburbanization. The expansion in the states has taken place at an incessant speed and is continuing even now. Let us see how this colossal outward growth has impacted the country on the economic front.

Where we build houses, how we build them, and what kind we prefer has long-term implications for the economy, climate patterns as well as racial and economic segregation.

Over centuries, the developers built a plethora of homes extending farther from the center of the city. The farther the settlements grew, the lower the building heights went and the more rapid the sprawl turned out to be. The settlements in the suburbs gave people the illusion as if they were living far away from other people.

Settlements in the Suburbs

Individuals based on their personal benefits and costs made decisions on their part to settle in the suburbs and live a private, yet aloof life or one in the mainland city with noises intruding from the neighborhood. However, the New Deal in the 1930s expedited the urban sprawl in the US to a whole new level.

The bill created a Federal Housing Administration that standardized neighborhood design and made mortgages more affordable. These guidelines made country-style living a middle-class reality. They also created many problems. The guidelines were very didactic in terms of how the sprawling settlements ought to be constructed; no sidewalks, curvy streets, dead-end streets, and made it arduous to walk.

The guidelines also enforced a minimum lot size to spread the people out and upscale the sprawl and also imposed some zoning laws. These laws were penned as planning tools to decide what and what cannot be built on the suburban landscape.

The restrictions imposed on the suburban land have largely impacted the local economy. With industrial centers and economic hubs being distant from the suburbs, the residents had to commute a great distance. This led to slowing down the economy.

On average, people in the suburbs are now employed at lower rates and have declining incomes. Home prices have also been subdued when compared to central cities.

Characteristics of Suburbs

A house in the suburbs

  • The population and settlement density in suburbs is less in comparison to the metropolis. They are either a part of a developed city or exist as a separate residential community on the outskirts of it at a commutable distance.
  • There are better employment opportunities in the suburbs, however, not as many as in the developed city.
  • The suburbs generally have lesser space restrictions when it comes to the construction of housing societies, universities, or hospitals. Therefore, the ones constructed in the suburbs are generally large buildings with spacious indoors and outdoors.
  • People residing in the suburbs live far away from traffic noises and air pollution. Therefore, the quality of life is closer to nature and the residents have a greater life expectancy.
  • People in suburban areas often get the liberty of making their nutritional choices. They have greater access to physical and recreational activities as well as health care.
  • The suburbs usually have single-family homes, cars, yards, and drive-throughs.

Use of Suburban Areas

The utilization of suburban landscape can be done for a plethora of reasons/ These include

  • Accommodation of people in residential communities
  • Better healthcare facilities through the construction of hospitals and private clinics
  • Provision of better recreational facilities through parks, playgrounds, fun lands, and museums.
  • Better opportunities for physical activities through sports fields, public swimming pools, greenways and trails, and walking or biking to schools.

Types of Suburbs

The Inner Suburbs

Countries like the US experienced urban sprawl in the early 20th century when people were in hunt of better living and employment opportunities and building societies made their way easier by providing mortgages.

In the 1920s or 1930s, cities first began to develop settlements just at their boundaries and this constituted the inner suburban areas.

The Outer Suburbs

With a further spike in the population of people in the 1960s and 1970s, the suburban boundary was further pushed outward to accommodate rising settlements. This constituted the outer suburbs.

The outer suburbs are not densely populated and the settlements are open and wide.

Pros of Life in a Suburban Area

Interior of a modern house in the suburbs

  • Many people prefer the suburbs because of their affordability.
  • The suburban settlements have the advantage of being big and spacious and so, families can get to have a comfortable living without investing too much money.
  • The living environment in suburbia is cleaner, greener, and more tranquil. You can feel connected with the natural landscape while your nexus with the city remains intact.
  • If city noises and crowded spaces take a toll on your mental level, settling in the suburban area might be the choice of life for you.
  • The monetary value of property in the suburbs is likely to augment over time. This is because with a growing population, people are willingly moving towards the outskirts and the value of a residential unit bought there will have its worth increased in just a matter of years.
  • The living expenditures in the city keep soaring every now and then, the products are expensive and real estate properties have prices over the moon. However, in the suburbs, the cost of living is generally less expensive.

A suburban house landscape

Cons of Life in a Suburban Area

  • Shifting towards the wooded areas out from the mainland makes the residences vulnerable to wildfires and they are something uncontrollable and will only get worse.
  • The suburban drivers on the beltways are shaping the climate of the future. In the suburban settlements, the families have independent cars and usually no access to public transport. Even with lower population density, separate cars are a necessity to commute to and from places and this has weighed down on the environment in the form of terrible emissions.
  • Despite aiming at reducing carbon emissions by 2035, auto emissions in the US are expected to remain flat owing to surging developments on the urban fringe and even outside it.
  • The job market in the suburban area is quite competitive.
  • The neighborhood in the suburbs is not very close enough. Therefore, for longer distances, there are fewer amenities such as public transport, schools, colleges, and universities.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to make a choice between the suburbs and the city?

When deciding about settling in any area, be it a suburban area or a main city, it is important to weigh all the factors that might impact your living in one way or the other.

You must think about the job market and employment opportunities available, the climate of the area and how gravely will it influence your day-to-day working, check whether you have access to basic necessities of life such as schools, hospitals, etc., at a negotiable distance and a lot more factors.

By now you must be thinking of settling in the suburbs, however, there are pros and cons to each decision. Each experience is distinct in its own way. The right and the wise choice depend on the type of living experience you want to get.

If you are inclined towards nature and its tranquility and segregated living at a lower price, check the suburban box in your checklist. Contrarily, if you want to enjoy the perks of living in a city and busy neighborhoods, you better stay connected to the city.

What were the first suburbs in the history of the US?

The urban sprawl in America kickstarted around the 1950s and families began to move out and settle on the urban fringe by utilizing the home loans offered at affordable prices. Levittown in Long Island, New York is documented as the first modern suburb in the US post the second world war.

The homes in Levittown showed stark resemblances, all of them being built on the same architectural Cape-Cod style. The floorplan area of each residential unit was kept the same and the interiors were also more or less replicated.

Is it possible to prevent urban sprawl or do it in a way that does not impact nature’s working?

By the time urban sprawl commenced in the US, it was deemed to be the best solution to encamp surging populations in city centers. However, the manner in which the settlements grew in the outskirts was paid little attention.

Consequently, when urban sprawl accelerated, it began interfering with the natural landscape close to the rural side. With greater number of personal cars in the suburbs, which previously were non-existent, the auto emissions leveled down the state’s efforts to decrease carbon emissions by 2035.

As of now, further expansion in the outward direction towards the exurbs is another danger in one form and a pacifier in another. It is pertinent to mention that urban sprawl can only be prevented by strong actions taken on the political front.

However, to do it in a manner more effective and less defective is what the town planners need to put their heads together for. Here are some useful tips for coping with urban sprawl.

  • Align your town planning and design with nature.
  • Homogeneous designs look monotonous and do not picture the essence of suburban living. It is better to go for mixed settlements, floor plans, and vertical stories.
  • Old buildings that intercept the suburbs should be effectively utilized to preserve history instead of being dismantled and thrown away in landfills.
  • The agricultural lands in the way of suburbs should in no way be stripped off. Doing so will have economic repercussions and may also create food insecurity at the domestic level.
  • It is better to plant trees along the sidewalks to utilize the space for nature’s intrusion into the artificial world.
  • Expanding the public transit system will help make a community more equitable.
Related Posts