The blog Infrastructurist published an interview in 2009 with Christopher Leinberger. He has done quite a bit to bring the concept of suburban poverty to the mainstream. Leinberger attributes much of the problem to supply and demand and to changing lifestyle expectations. In other words, the magic of the market created the problem and will fix it. Leinberger thinks it will take about thirty years for suburbia to adapt. We love the sound of many of the adaptations required: walkable, mixed-use urban hubs and rail-based public transit for example. He seems to be saying it’s a tall order but achieveable even if there will be losers along the way. Perhaps this effort at structural adaptation could be put in place under government guidance as a response to what really does seem like the end of growth but a dissonance emerges right away. A continental refitting of suburbia would require epic amounts of capital to start and maintain which makes Leinberger’s ideas seem almost hallucinatory given the impairments of the global financial system. At a couple of points Leinberger indicates he is well in touch with reality. He mentions the phenomenon of suburban houses converted into flophouses for groups of unrelated men. Certainly, Leinberger’s efforts at the Brookings Institution also indicate much comprehension of suburban poverty and dysfunction. His take on what to actually do with suburbia is both attractive and disappointing.
How to Save the Suburbs: Solutions from the Man Who Saw the Whole Thing Coming
Vancouver police have turned to the Internet hoping to identify and charge people who took part in looting, assault, and vandalism during riots after this year’s Stanley Cup. The police website indicates that 41 rioteers have so far been arrested or turned themselves in. A breakdown of where 37 of them came from indicates only 7 were from Vancouver proper. The majority were suburban young people, 9 from Surrey alone.
With recent disturbances in London, England the question was raised about the decision to riot, wreck and loot where you live. Youth from the suburbs rioting, wrecking and looting where they don’t live is less easily explained. In both locations individuals were demonstrating a total lack of connection to their surroundings. Worrisome indeed.
Integrated Riot Investigation
Some new data has become available about First Nations in Ottawa. The population is growing but becoming more spread out. Newly arriving First Nations persons are also moving directly to suburban Ottawa in a number of cases. The sterotype of aboriginal poverty in the centres of Canadian cities (and on reserves) might appear to be changing if this demographic development were to be looked at further. Unfortunately, the article indicates that there is still hardship for Ottawa’s First Nations outside of the more established neighbourhoods they have lived in there.
5 things to know about Ottawa’s aboriginal community CBC
For reasons best left undescribed, an employer had us take a Hummer H2 to a gas station for them one time. Said beast swallowed nearly $100 worth of gas like we do a mouthful of Red Stripe lager. The creepy, techno-cave of an interior was acre-upon-acre of cheap grey GM plastic. Pure materialism. Imagine then our shock when we came across the idea of using Hummer bodies as the raw material for prefab housing units. …if life on the perimeter is to be salvaged at all this might just be the kind of creative thinking and resource recycling we’re going to need.
A Better Use For Hummers: Prefab Modular Housing | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World
We thought it might be useful to look at popular culture for evidence of suburban poverty. Much of what you come across in popular culture is aspirational, delusional even, when it comes to portraying class and social conditions. Among the things we found is this resentful dirge from fringe Republican Hank Williams Junior. The song refers to ‘this town’ but we see symbols and elements of suburban life. Williams croons from inside, or next to, a late 1950s Cadillac, there is a motor vehicle in every scene practically. Single family dwellings and working people populate the video. Things don’t look too hot – the repo man is after the pickup and there’s no work and apparently Williams paid taxes. Awful to watch and awful to listen to. A song and video like this is produced because nobody is living what it represents? …more to come from popular culture!
Tactical Team 4 from suburban-poverty.com fired up the boilers in the Taurus and hit a semi-abandoned orchard north of the Greater Toronto Area this morning with excellent results. A large quantity of apples was picked and delivered to a busy drop in centre serving many low income (and otherwise vulnerable) people in Mississauga. We’ve noticed the lack of fresh food and low level of food literacy among the service population at the drop in and the appearance of a ton of crisp fresh apples created a happy buzz. One that will probably last for a couple of days. Those dependant on social agencies, food banks and charities for basic necessities often encounter too much in the way of salty canned and prepared food, Kraft Dinner and other carbohydrates. There’s a risk of encountering outdated food from such sources as well. We’ve already learned a little about the complications of providing social services in suburban areas so the value of using some creativity to find alternative sources of good, fresh food is enormous. An apple is such a simple healthy thing if you think about it. No packaging or preparation required.
While we found it a pleasure to make a contact, secure and then deliver some fruit we realize we are amateurs at this. See posting (30) and here are two Canadian examples:
Not far from the tree Toronto, ON foragers
Fruit for thought Regina, SK
Check out this video as well, it features veggie gardening in suburban Columbus, OH:
According to a recent report by Rowan University and Fair Share Housing Center suburban rental affordability in New Jersey was better in 1970 than today. That’s so long ago it might as well be 1870!
Report blames zoning laws for lack of affordable housing in New Jersey
Here’s an interesting piece from the New York Times. It’s about a woman who forages for food growing on foreclosed residential properties. She boldy goes where no one can afford to live any more and finds peppers, melons, all kinds of things. There’s something really cool about this sure sign of suburban contraction. Lately, suburban-poverty.com has been scouting abandoned orchards and fruit trees, too. We’re looking for a free crop to share with others, imperfect and organic-by-abandonment is fine with us. We’ll do the work, too.
At vacant homes, foraging for fruit see slideshow as well
Next bus in forty-four minutes, or fifty-five minutes, except on Sundays or before seven a.m. or after rush hour, …or maybe never! Typical scheduling for hard pressed working people dependant on Suburbland’s diesel bus dominated public transit. It’s a wonder anyone can hold down a job in Sprawlville. Long, multiple-transfer bus rides across Edge Cities in order to hold down some crap job suck the life out of you. We’ve wondered about the justice of this for some time here at suburban-poverty.com. Once again the Brookings Institution rides up with the evidence. God bless Brookings!
Job sprawl and the suburbanization of poverty
Newspaper columnist Heather Mallick recently wrote with some passion about a proposed fare hike for Toronto Transit Commission users. The TTC was once the envy of many a city but now is badly stressed, barely able to reconcile the urban and suburban needs of riders. God bless you too, Heather!
Mallick: TTC fare hike like poison for the poor
editor’s note: it once took us two hours and five minutes to get home from a gig cleaning cars in North York to our place in Parkdale. We had early signs of hypothermia when we got in the door. We have not harboured resentment ever since, fuckers.
Editorial staffers at the suburban-poverty.com office park have been looking for solutions to suburban dysfunction, not just descriptions of it. One of the most imaginative and interesting collections of good ideas yet seen came together in 2009 for Dwell magazine’s Reburbia competition. We were immediately enamoured of such things as Zeppelin-based public transit and monster homes repurposed as dispersed water biofiltration plants. Far out at times, yes. But things are unsustainable as they are now.
Reburbia winners announced