The New York Times reports that the suburban model may have reached a tipping point:
Suddenly, the economics of American suburban life are under assault as skyrocketing energy prices inflate the costs of reaching, heating and cooling homes on the distant edges of metropolitan areas.
Across the nation, the realization is taking hold that rising energy prices are less a momentary blip than a change with lasting consequences. The shift to costlier fuel is threatening to slow the decades-old migration away from cities, while exacerbating the housing downturn by diminishing the appeal of larger homes set far from urban jobs.
More than three-fourths of prospective home buyers are now more inclined to live in an urban area because of fuel prices, according to a recent survey of 903 real estate agents with Coldwell Banker, the national brokerage firm ...
“It’s like an ebbing of this suburban tide,” said Joe Cortright, an economist at the consulting group Impresa Inc. in Portland, Ore. “There’s going to be this kind of reversal of desirability. Typically, Americans have felt the periphery was most desirable, and now there’s going to be a reversion to the center.” In a recent study, Mr. Cortright found that house prices in the urban centers of Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Portland and Tampa have fared significantly better than those in the suburbs. So-called exurbs — communities sprouting on the distant edges of metropolitan areas — have suffered worst of all, Mr. Cortright found.
And here's the money quote from Phil Boyle, a Denver-area suburbanite: "Before it was ‘we spend too much time driving.’ Now, it’s ‘we spend too much time and money driving.’ ”
UPDATE: Over at Freakonomics, economist Daniel Hamermesh reports on his recent research on the topic of time versus money:
The average human being will be substantially richer in 50 years, just as the average American today has a real income three times what it was in 1955. But the average human being will not have much more time in 50 years than today; and life expectancy has increased by only 10 percent in the U.S. since 1955, so for most people time has become relatively scarce compared to money ... So the next time you hear a wealthy person complaining about having no time, tell him/her that there’s a simple alternative — give away money. Of course, a person who does that will then complain that his/her income is insufficient. Time or money: one or the other is always relatively scarce and always generates complaints!
The paper is here. Seems to me location is a critical piece in balancing the time-money equation and will become even more so in the future.