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Thursday 14 November 2002

Suburban Living

An article in the Washington Post today discussed The Oaks, a development of million-dollar houses in Montgomery County, Maryland. The houses are right next to I-270, a very busy commuter route that’s 12 lanes wide.

Not that long ago, a suburban home buyer with enough money to purchase at The Oaks — prices start at $1.2 million — would have aspired to the natural serenity of a country estate. But the construction of highway mansions like those planned at The Oaks reflects not only the scarcity of buildable land around Washington but also the erosion of the old suburban ideal: The yearning for a stately acreage has been trumped by the consumer demand for speed and mobility.

It seems to me that these people would have even more speed and mobility — and possibly more privacy and a lower housing cost — if they lived in a big luxurious apartment in a high-rise that was actually near anything other than a highway. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to build those in most places, because they “result” in “bad traffic”, unlike the sparse developments that line both sides of the gridlock that is I-270. And in the places where such buildings are permitted, they’re made unprofitable by building codes that require that they be built to an absurdly high standard.

Eventually, things will have to change; people will eventually reject the idea of paying a million dollars to live in the midst of increasingly hellish traffic. The problem then will be the question of what to do with these giant houses that people no longer see as desirable.

Posted by tino at 11:22 14.11.02
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Watch out for the barking chipmunks!

Posted by: RRP at November 15, 2002 11:24 AM