04 May 2010

Wanted: Suburban House in City

I happened upon an article in a Toronto newspaper in which the author, a mother of two, complained that she couldn't find a suburban type house in her urban neighborhood. I found it interesting, because I have met several downtown couples who feel a similar conundrum. In her words, she wants:
..an affordable, big, four-bedroom suburban house – in the city. That way, we non-car owners could live in spacious comfort and still be within easy walking distance of a decent health-food store, playing fields, the library, the boys’ public school, restaurants, our families and work. ..

...Our boys commute by streetcar to school every day, and they navigate the transit system with ease. They can’t ride their bikes home from school because they’d have to cross three major roads to do so. They play in their neighbourhood park, not their backyard. We make good use of Toronto’s ravines for weekend hikes...

I really don't have any solution for this mother, except to say you cannot have it all. You cannot have your urban lifestyle, and have a large backyard, ...at least on a budget and in a "safe" neighborhood. Yes, those houses do exist in Cincinnati, (for example in the gaslight area of Clifton) but for most middle-class families, you must choose. For my family, we chose to live in a poorer neighborhood, so that we could still afford the space, and yet we still don't have a private yard. We have a community garden, and we have the parks. I haven't run a lawnmower since I was a teenager, but neighbors step on vegetable plants in the community garden. The vegetables are not that important to me.

Understand your priorities, jump in, and don't look back.


Dave said...

I suspect this personal desire for space is one of the elements that will feed suburb expansion in the US again once economic conditions improve.

In Germany, some of the individual garden plots near urban centers
included sizable fixed structures with satellite dishes, sidewalks and covered porches. Near the
center of all the plots was an ideal bar/restaurant, convenient
for reflecting on the day's toils.

Unknown said...

I can certainly relate to this one and must echo the "you can't have it all" sentiment. We're lucky in Cincinnati that there are still some diverse, walkable communities outside of the urban core. (Although I sure do wish there were more!)

Unknown said...

I'd say Cincinnati has plenty of neighborhoods that fit her needs. 4 bedrooms is usually the hardest to get. If you are willing to go with 3 bed 1.5 bath. You pretty have great choices all over. The hardest to have would be the walkable grocery store, but that is hard in 98% of the country.

bsherm said...

I LOVE the fact that I essentially have no yard to manage and no driveway to shovel. I do admit I would like to have a garage, but can't have it all.

My sister in the burbs is always trying to give us her old large plastic sandbox, swing set et al., she doesn't get that we have no space for it, and can take a short walk (through woods no less) to a far nicer playground than we could justify building for our son.

I used to want a big yard, but I adore sharing community space instead. Of course it helps that we have psycho neighbors on our street that have done a lot of "guerilla gardening".

Radarman said...

Honest suburbanites admit that the children today make minimal use of the back yard. Large yards are now a function of zoning intended to keep low priced housing out of the community. Drive through any residential suburb on what should be a day of childhood activity and you'll see what I mean. The kids are inside in the air conditioning.

5chw4r7z said...

Why such a big house? It seems to me people in the xburbs are in their cars most the day working running kids to school, soccer, McDonalds. If you think about what you are really paying for and using it seems hard to justify large yards and houses.
The city is the same just different, instead of spending all day in the car, its spent in parks, public spaces and walking around talking.
Or in my case, relaxing on the deck laughing at people stuck in traffic on 71S.

Jeff said...

We have 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a city park for a front yard near Christ Hospital. In addition, there are several families with kids. I am not trying to brag about space but the "suburban dream" can be had in/near the city.

Quimbob said...

For Cincinnati, I was thinking like Jeff. Mt Auburn, Clifton & Northside fairly fit the bill. I wonder if the missing element for this woman was "new".
here is a pic of a neighborhood in a suburb of Toronto. (Actually it is a picture of an e-friends's car.) It kinda reminds me of the Pullan/Haight area of Northside with the houses all packed together tightly, but the houses look really tiny.

Anonymous said...

The picture of Toronto scared me. Don't they have trees or vegetation there? OK, a couple of trees show in the picture but there is no landscaping. Cincinnati is wonderfully green -literally.
There are many four bedroom-plus old townhouses around downtown. some have been divided up some not. Maybe two buildings could be turned into one. Thankfully, you will not find a "suburban looking" house in downtown/near. That would just be wrong.

Or how about City West? Those are new and seem to fit in.