Suburbs Slipping into Hole of Urban Decline
September 22nd, 2000 by Tim Evans
- Urban distress is beginning to seep into the suburbs and small towns that border New Jersey’s major cities. Many of these communities have fallen behind the state pace in three important measures: change in per capita income, change in residential value and change in their share of regional employment.
- In north Jersey, they include Newark and Elizabeth – but also Saddle Brook, Nutley, West Caldwell, Netcong, Hopatcong, and Kenilworth.
- In central Jersey, they include Trenton and Asbury Park – but also North Brunswick, Ewing, Toms River and Freehold borough.
- In south Jersey, they include Camden and Atlantic City – but also Maple Shade, Willingboro, Mount Holly and Brigantine.
The builders and early residents of New Jersey’s great cities never imagined today’s vacant lots, decaying homes or abandoned storefronts. The builders and residents of New Jersey’s suburbs don’t see their future that way, either. Yet suburbs built in our lifetime are already slipping into the same distress as their urban neighbors – and for the same reason.
In the past 50 years New Jersey has stopped reinvesting in its older communities, preferring to “buy new” instead of “recycle.” In the process, we’ve used up so many natural resources that if we continue building at the same pace, and save the targeted one million acres, New Jersey will run out of developable land in just 32 years.
It doesn’t have to be this way. On September 15, New Jerseyans statewide met at New Jersey Future’s “Best Practices in Smart Growth” conference to discuss the three major changes needed to achieve smarter growth: Better land use planning, improved affordable housing policies and tax-sharing. We’ll explore each of these three solutions in the next three issues of “NJFuture Facts and Current Issues.”
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B. Tim Evans, NJF Research Director,