Homo Suburbus

Are we headed back to a white picket future?


Terry Levine
February 2, 2013

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Ever since openly gay communities and the gay rights movement began coalescing after World War II – in places like New York, San Francisco and Toronto — the city has formed the backdrop our modern life. But as social attitudes change, as we become increasingly accepted and technology makes it easier to connect, many of us wonder whether we ought to keep our deluxe apartment in the sky or opt for the white picket suburbia of our youth. Here are a couple of things to consider.

Cost of living

You definitely get more bang for your buck in the burbs – more privacy, larger rooms, spacious front and back yards, maybe a pool. But if it’s about saving money, the calculation isn’t quite that clear.

Real estate agent Corbin Seligman says when you delve deeper, beyond the higher price of city versus suburban homes, the actual cost difference is almost a wash.

The New York Times goes even further. In attempting to quantify the two lifestyle options, it actually found that the suburban lifestyle costs about 18% more than urban living. Yes, suburban homes are bigger but they’re also more expensive to live in. As George Carlin joked, more space also means more stuff.

“Suburban property taxes are often higher, owning a car – or several cars – is expensive and then there’s the commute time,” Seligman says. “What would you do with that extra hour or more a day?”

Of course, if you work from home or in the suburbs, transportation costs and commuting aren’t going to factor in much.

Quality of life

“It’s safer for kids” may be the number one reason couples give to justify their move to the suburbs. But while there are certainly heinous crimes committed downtown, the burbs are hardly immune. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, the murder rate is higher outside big cities, and has been for over a decade.

Where cities excel over suburbs is with culture, restaurants and nightlife. If you’re a stay-at-home type, this won’t matter much. But if you’d still like to occasionally tear up the dance floor or check out a gallery exhibit or try Mexican-Korean fusion cuisine, a schlep from the burbs might dissuade you.

Ultimately, it’s not a black and white choice and you have to decide what makes the most sense for you.

“Every family is different,” Seligman says. “It’s important to look at the whole picture rather than any one factor. Consider your lifestyle, your preferences and what’s really important to you.”

Are you moving to the burbs? Sold on the city? Will it impact your lifestyle? What’s your take?