Thursday, February 21, 2008

A set back for the exurbs, as economy falters

A story in yesterday's NYT tells of a housing slowdown in the "outermost exurbs" of Texas cities. The story focuses on Lavon, Texas, 25 miles northeast of Dallas, which had a 2000 population of 387.

According to journalist Leslie Eaton, the boom started just a year ago, with land values soaring and the population hitting 2,500. Now, however, the housing market has slowed dramatically, leaving the city, which had counted on continuing growth brought by a 5,000-home development, in a financial pinch.

The city's marshal and chief administrator, J. Michael Jones, doesn't seem to lament the growth, recalling the day when the city had no funds to repair roads and held "volunteer patching parties" to fix its then mostly gravel roads. But the housing bust has clearly had adverse consequences for Lavon's oldtimers, as well as its newcomers. The story quotes a local pastor regarding the number of families seeking emergency aid from his church. It's a mixed bag even for city marshal Jones, who lives in nearby Wylie (location of the closest Wal-Mart). He can't sell his home in Wylie in order to realize his dream: moving back to Lavon and its new "Grand Heritage" development of "turreted stone castlettes and modest brick bungalows." I wonder if others would like simply to return to the "good old days," when Lavon was, as Eaton writes, little more than a speed trap.

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