It’s hard to imagine a less efficient or more socially isolating scenario than living in a classic “bedroom community” built in the latter half of the 20th century. Life in suburbia requires a car for almost every adult residing in each home, who drives to work, drives to shop, and drives to find entertainment or meet up with friends. And yet this is seen as the “norm” by most Americans.

According to the 2017 American Housing Survey of nearly 76,000 households, about 52% percent describe their neighborhood as “suburban.” But why should people continue to spend huge amounts of money on cars and gas and insurance, on maintaining roads and other infrastructure, when the demographics of home buying are shifting in a different direction? “Freedom” is the American answer—and, for a while, it was perhaps a plausible one. In the invented reality of suburbia, however, people are largely slaves to their cars. And the inefficiencies of low-density living mean that taxes explode to pay for all the necessary infrastructure. As a result, the freedom of each and every American family to own its own castle comes with hard costs, not to mention significant environmental costs as well.

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