chapter  3
17 Pages

Old Neighborhoods Lead the Way

WithWilliam H. Lucy

The federal government created a secondary mortgage market to expand home ownership and built 42,000 miles of interstate highways that allowed people to live far away from their jobs. By 2000, pre-1940 census tracts no longer were the lowest-income areas within their metros. Tracts dominated by housing whose origins overlapped the 1940s and 1950s were occupied by families with lower incomes than neighborhoods specializing in pre-1940s housing. Neighborhoods were configured in such a way as to reduce traffic: cul-de-sacs appeared, turning city streets into little more than private drives for a handful of folks. Pre-1940 neighborhoods were widely varied in their housing types and quality, nearly always were more accessible, sometimes were in prime areas, including close to downtown jobs, and became attractive places to remodel or to demolish and rebuild. When neighborhoods are dominated by small houses, with little variation in age, size, and quality, buyers have to pause and think.