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Breaking Trad: Newly-Weds Who Realize They Don't Have to Move to the Suburbs to Breed!

seattle downtown families

Recently the Associated Press ran a story on parents seeking to maintain an urban lifestyle for their families.  Primarily focused on a few of us families in Seattle the article talks about more families choosing to remain in the city, particularly Downtowns.

"We seem to be closing the child gap."

The growth of families in urban areas such as Seattle has been defying decades long trends of families exiting to more suburban communities.  While we are all aware of the growth our urban cores have made in recent years, the growth in families is more indicative of how these cities have transitioned from central business districts to neighborhoods.  Neighborhoods whose livability is defined by more than coffee shops and trendy shops.   They are becoming attractive places to raise families. 

"We drank the Kool-Aid.  We thought once we got married, we had to buy a house in the suburb."

Even more positive is that families are beginning to see that the path that has been set before them isn't the only option, and for many not the best.  Long commutes and burdening expenses of transportation and single family upkeep, amongst many other things, have led to unfulfilled promises that the exiting the city once held for households with children.

Urban and suburban living has its merits and is entirely dependent on the circumstances of a household.  There are trade offs no matter the community a family chooses, and urban communities have no shortage of their own challenges such as the absence of neighborhood schools, play infrastructure, and reasonably priced and sized housing.  But as families begin to trend towards these urban neighborhoods it presents an opportunity to level the playing field so that urban living can be an option.  And not just one for the wealthy that can afford the three-bedroom penthouse and a private school enrollment tab.

With that understanding, when we advocate to create urban walkable communities that are family friendly they shouldn't be just for the haves.  If our urban walkable communities are the treasure trove of sustainability, economic efficiency, and improved health then they should be accessible to all income levels.  Families moving and returning to the city should present an opportunity for us to correct the inequality and inequities that have existed for families and children.   

When we conducted research last year 60% of residents under the age of 18 lived in households earning greater than 125% of the median family income in Midtown and Downtown Atlanta.  While this is a topic we will investigate in greater depth in the near future, it represents the inequality that is emerging in our urban cores.  We are reserving access to such an incredible resource to those who have the means.  Poverty is on a rapid rise in our suburban communities, and the expensive burden that sprawl has become is bringing other households to the brink.  With current trends we will not be improving the lives, health, and economic standing of families with walkable urbanism, but rather just relocating those that are most vulnerable.  It will become nothing more than a mere inversion. Well to do families that once occupied gated cul-de-sacs will live in penthouses and low-income families and middle class will be struggling to survive in once prosperous subdivisions rather than aging neighborhoods in the city.

The increase of families in Downtowns and other walkable urban communities is a positive sign to making them into viable neighborhoods and communities.  But we must not forget that it isn't simply about percentage growth and decline, and that who we are making the city accessible to is far more important.  

Read the Full Story: Parents Seeking Urban Lifestyle for Kids

Photo Credit: Families and Urban Density/shutterstock