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A suburb is a residential area or a mixed use area, either existing as part of a city or urban area (as in Australia, China, New Zealand and the United Kingdom), or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city (as in the United States, France, Kuwait, and Canada).
Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population densities than inner city neighborhoods. Suburbs first emerged on a large scale in the 19th and 20th centuries as a result of improved rail and road transport, which led to an increase in commuting. Suburbs tend to proliferate around cities that have an abundance of adjacent flat land.
The word is derived from the Old French subburbe, which is in turn derived from the Latin suburbium, formed from sub (meaning "under") and urbs ("city"). In Ancient Rome, wealthy and important people tended to live on the hills of the city, while poorer citizens lived at lower elevations – hence "under the city". The first recorded usage of the term in English, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was made by John Wycliffe in 1380, where the form subarbis was used.
In Ireland and the United Kingdom, suburb merely refers to a residential area outside the city centre, regardless of administrative boundaries. Suburbs in this sense can be separated by open countryside from the city centre. In large cities such as London, suburbs include formerly separate towns and villages that have been gradually absorbed during a city's growth and expansion, like Ealing or Bromley.
In Australia and New Zealand, suburbs have become formalised as geographic subdivisions of a city and are used by postal services in addressing. In rural areas of Australia, their equivalents are called localities (see suburbs and localities). In Australia, the terms inner suburb and outer suburb are used to differentiate between the higher-density suburbs in proximity to the city center, and the lower-density suburbs on the outskirts of the urban area. Inner suburbs, such as Te Aro in Wellington, Prahran in Melbourne and Ultimo in Sydney, are usually characterised by higher density apartment housing and greater integration between commercial and residential areas.
The earliest appearance of suburbs coincided with the spread of the first urban settlements. Large walled towns tended to be the focus around which smaller villages grew up in a symbiotic relationship with the market town. The word 'suburbani' was first used by the Roman statesman, Cicero, in reference to the large villas and estates built by the wealthy patricians of Rome on the city's outskirts.
As populations grew during the Early Modern Period in Europe, urban towns swelled with a steady influx of people from the countryside. In some places, nearby settlements were swallowed up as the main city expanded. The peripheral areas on the outskirts of the city were generally inhabited by the very poorest.
Due to the rapid migration of the rural poor to the industrialising cities of England in the late 18th century, a trend in the opposite direction began to develop; - newly rich members of the middle classes began to purchase estates and villas on the outskirts of London. This trend accelerated through the 19th century, especially in cities like London and Manchester that were experiencing tremendous growth, and the first suburban districts sprung up around the city centre to accommodate those who wanted to escape the squalid conditions of the industrial town. Toward the end of the century, with the development of public transit systems such as the underground railways, trams and buses, it became possible for the majority of the city's population to reside outside the city and to commute into the centre for work.
By the mid-19th century, the first major suburban areas were springing up around London as the city (then the largest in the world) became more overcrowded and unsanitary. A major catalyst in suburban growth came from the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in the 1860s. The line joined the capital's financial heart in the City to what were to become the suburbs of Middlesex. Harrow was reached in 1880, and the line eventually extended as far as Verney Junction in Buckinghamshire, more than 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Baker Street and the centre of London.
Unlike other railway companies, which were required to dispose of surplus land, the Met was allowed to retain such land that it believed was necessary for future railway use.[a] Initially, the surplus land was managed by the Land Committee, and, from the 1880s, the land was developed and sold to domestic buyers in places like Willesden Park Estate, Cecil Park, near Pinner and at Wembley Park.
In 1912, it was suggested that a specially formed company should take over from the Surplus Lands Committee and develop suburban estates near the railway. However, World War I delayed these plans and it was only in 1919, with expectation of a postwar housing boom, that the Metropolitan Railway Country Estates Limited (MRCE) was formed. The MRCE went on to develop estates at Kingsbury Garden Village near Neasden, Wembley Park, Cecil Park and Grange Estate at Pinner and the Cedars Estate at Rickmansworth and create places such as Harrow Garden Village.
The term "Metro-land" was coined by the Met's marketing department in 1915 when the Guide to the Extension Line became the Metro-land guide, priced at 1d. This promoted the land served by the Met for the walker, visitor and later the house-hunter. Published annually until 1932, the last full year of independence for the Met, the guide extolled the benefits of "The good air of the Chilterns", using language such as "Each lover of Metroland may well have his own favourite wood beech and coppice — all tremulous green loveliness in Spring and russet and gold in October". The dream promoted was of a modern home in beautiful countryside with a fast railway service to central London. By 1915, people from across London had flocked to live the new suburban dream in large newly built areas across North West London.
Suburbanisation in the interwar period was heavily influenced by the garden city movement of Ebenezer Howard and the creation of the first garden suburbs at the turn of the 20th century. The first garden suburb was developed through the efforts of social reformer Henrietta Barnett and her husband; inspired by Ebenezer Howard and the model housing development movement (then exemplified by Letchworth garden city), as well as the desire to protect part of Hampstead Heath from development, they established trusts in 1904 which bought 243 acres of land along the newly opened Northern line extension to Golders Green and created the Hampstead Garden Suburb. The suburb attracted the talents of architects including Raymond Unwin and Sir Edwin Lutyens, and it ultimately grew to encompass over 800 acres.
During the First World War the Tudor Walters Committee was commissioned to make recommendations for the post war reconstruction and housebuilding. In part, this was a response to the shocking lack of fitness amongst many recruits during World War One, attributed to poor living conditions; a belief summed up in a housing poster of the period "you cannot expect to get an A1 population out of C3 homes" - referring to military fitness classifications of the period.
The Committee's report of 1917 was taken up by the government, which passed the Housing, Town Planning, &c. Act 1919, also known as the Addison Act after Dr. Christopher Addison, the then Minister for Housing. The Act allowed for the building of large new housing estates in the suburbs after the First World War, and marked the start of a long 20th century tradition of state-owned housing, which would later evolve into council estates.
The Report also legislated on the required, minimum standards necessary for further suburban construction; this included regulation on the maximum housing density and their arrangement and it even made recommendations on the ideal number of bedrooms and other rooms per house. Although the semi-detached house was first designed by the Shaws (a father and son architectural partnership) in the 19th century, it was during the suburban housing boom of the interwar period that that the design first proliferated as a suburban icon, being preferred by middle class home owners to the smaller terraced houses. The design of many of these houses, highly characteristic of the era, was heavily influenced by the Art Deco movement, taking influence from Tudor Revival, chalet style, and even ship design.
Within just a decade suburbs dramatically increased in size. Harrow Weald went from just 1,500 to over 10,000 while Pinner jumped from 3,00 to over 20,000. During the 1930s, over 4 million new suburban houses were built, the 'suburban revolution' had made England the most heavily suburbanized country in the world, by a considerable margin.
The suburban population in North America exploded during the post-World War II economic expansion. Returning veterans wishing to start a settled life moved en masse to the suburbs. Levittown developed as a major prototype of mass-produced housing. At the same time, African Americans were rapidly moving north for better jobs and educational opportunities than were available to them in the segregated South. Their arrival in Northern cities en masse, in addition to being followed by race riots in several large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, further stimulated white suburban migration. The growth of the suburbs was facilitated by the development of zoning laws, redlining and numerous innovations in transport. After World War II availability of FHA loans stimulated a housing boom in American suburbs. In the older cities of the northeast U.S., streetcar suburbs originally developed along train or trolley lines that could shuttle workers into and out of city centers where the jobs were located. This practice gave rise to the term "bedroom community", meaning that most daytime business activity took place in the city, with the working population leaving the city at night for the purpose of going home to sleep.
The first large–scale suburban area in the United States to develop was Long Island, New York, a suburb derived mostly from the upper-middle-class development of entire communities in the late nineteenth century, and the rapid population growth that occurred as a result. As car ownership rose and wider roads were built, the commuting trend accelerated in North America. This trend towards living away from towns and cities has been termed the urban exodus.
Economic growth in the United States encouraged the suburbanization of American cities that required massive investments for the new infrastructure and homes. Consumer patterns were also shifting at this time, as purchasing power was becoming stronger and more accessible to a wider range of families. Suburban houses also brought about needs for products that were not needed in urban neighborhoods, such as lawnmowers and automobiles. During this time commercial shopping malls were being developed near suburbs to satisfy consumers' needs and their car–dependent lifestyle.
Zoning laws also contributed to the location of residential areas outside of the city center by creating wide areas or "zones" where only residential buildings were permitted. These suburban residences are built on larger lots of land than in the central city. For example, the lot size for a residence in Chicago is usually 125 feet (38 m) deep, while the width can vary from 14 feet (4.3 m) wide for a row house to 45 feet (14 m) wide for a large stand–alone house. In the suburbs, where stand–alone houses are the rule, lots may be 85 feet (26 m) wide by 115 feet (35 m) deep, as in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. Manufacturing and commercial buildings were segregated in other areas of the city.
Alongside suburbanization, many companies began locating their offices and other facilities in the outer areas of the cities, which resulted in the increased density of older suburbs and the growth of lower density suburbs even further from city centers. An alternative strategy is the deliberate design of "new towns" and the protection of green belts around cities. Some social reformers attempted to combine the best of both concepts in the garden city movement.
In the U.S., 1950 was the first year that more people lived in suburbs than elsewhere. In the U.S, the development of the skyscraper and the sharp inflation of downtown real estate prices also led to downtowns being more fully dedicated to businesses, thus pushing residents outside the city center.
In the 20th century, many suburban areas began to see independence from the central city as an asset. In some cases, white suburbanites(like Paygen) saw self-government as a means to keep out people who could not afford the added suburban property maintenance costs not needed in city living. Federal subsidies for suburban development accelerated this process as did the practice of redlining by banks and other lending institutions. In some cities such as Miami and San Francisco, the main city is much smaller than the surrounding suburban areas, leaving the city proper with a small portion of the metro area's population and land area. Cleveland, Ohio is typical of many American central cities; its municipal borders have changed little since 1922, even though the Cleveland urbanized area has grown many times over. Several layers of suburban municipalities now surround cities like Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Houston, New York City, San Francisco, Sacramento, Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and, Washington, D.C..
They are characterized by:
By 2010 suburbs increasingly gained people in racial minority groups, as many members of minority groups became better educated, more affluent, and sought more favorable living conditions compared to inner city areas; many white Americans also moved back to city centers. Many major city downtowns (such as Downtown Miami, Downtown Detroit, Downtown Philadelphia or Downtown Los Angeles) are experiencing a renewal, with large population growth, residential apartment construction, and increased social, cultural, and infrastructural investments. Better public transit, proximity to work and cultural attractions, and frustration with suburban life and gridlock have attracted young Americans to the city centers.
Compared to the United States, Canadian suburbs are considerably more dense, and land use patterns are often more mixed-use. There are often high- or mid-rise developments interspersed with low-rise housing tracts. The concept of the McMansion, prevalent in the USA, is not common in Canadian suburbs. In Canada, densities are generally slightly higher than in Australia, but below typical European values. Often, Canadian suburbs are less automobile-centred and transit use is more prevalent. Throughout Canada, especially in Toronto and Vancouver, there are comprehensive plans in place to curb sprawl, such as Ontario's Places to Grow act.
Canada is an urbanized nation where over 80% of the population live in urban areas (loosely defined), and roughly two-thirds live in one of Canada's 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs) with a population of over 100,000. However, of this metropolitan population, in 2001 nearly half lived in low-density neighborhoods, with only one in five living in a typical "urban" neighborhood. The percentage living in low-density neighborhoods varied from a high of nearly two-thirds of Calgary CMA residents (67%), to a low of about one-third of Montreal CMA residents (34%).
Population and income growth in Canadian suburbs has tended to outpace growth in core urban or rural areas. The suburban population increased 87% between 1981 and 2001, well ahead of urban growth. The majority of recent population growth in Canada's three largest metropolitan areas (Greater Toronto, Greater Montreal, and Greater Vancouver) has occurred in non-core municipalities, although this trend has already reversed itself in Toronto, where a building boom has begun to take place. This trend is also beginning to take effect in Vancouver, and to a lesser extent, Montreal. In certain cities, particularly Edmonton and Calgary, suburban growth takes place within the city boundaries as opposed to in bedroom communities. This is due to annexation and large geographic footprint within the city borders.
In many parts of the developed world, suburbs can be economically distressed areas, inhabited by higher proportions of recent immigrants, with higher delinquency rates and social problems. Sometimes the notion of suburb may even refer to people in real misery, who are kept at the limit of the city borders for economic, social, and sometimes ethnic reasons. An example in the developed world would be the banlieues of France, or the concrete suburbs of Sweden, even if the suburbs of these countries also include middle-class and upper-class neighborhoods that often consist of single-family houses. Thus some of the suburbs of most of the developed world are comparable to several inner cities of the U.S. and Canada.
The growth in the use of trains, and later automobiles and highways, increased the ease with which workers could have a job in the city while commuting in from the suburbs. In the United Kingdom, as mentioned above, railways stimulated the first mass exodus to the suburbs. The Metropolitan Railway, for example, was active in building and promoting its own housing estates in the north-west of London, consisting mostly of detached houses on large plots, which it then marketed as "Metro-land". The Australian and New Zealand usage came about as outer areas were quickly surrounded in fast-growing cities, but retained the appellation suburb; the term was eventually applied to the original core as well.
In the UK, the government is seeking to impose minimum densities on newly approved housing schemes in parts of South East England. The goal is to "build sustainable communities" rather than housing estates. However, commercial concerns tend to delay the opening of services until a large number of residents have occupied the new neighbourhood.
In Mexico, suburbs are generally similar to their United States counterparts. Houses are made in many different architectural styles which may be of European, American and International architecture and which vary in size, although the main difference with the US and Canada is that houses are mainly constructed with bricks and concrete instead of wood; thus houses tend to last much longer, approximately 50 years. Suburbs can be found in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, and most major cities. Lomas de Chapultepec is an example of an affluent suburb, although it is located inside the city and by no means is today a suburb in the strict sense of the word. In Mexico's City Spanish the word "suburbio" is mainly used to denote the slums and urban sprawl in the outskirts of the city—mainly those found at the eastern/northeastern part of the city. In the rest of Latin America, the situation is similar to that of Mexico, with many suburbs being built, most notably in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, which have experienced a boom in the construction of suburbs since the late 70s and early 80s. As the growth of middle-class and upper-class suburbs increased, low-class squatter areas have increased, most notably "lost cities" in Mexico, barriadas in Peru, villa miserias in Argentina, asentamientos in Guatemala and favelas of Brazil.
In Africa, since the beginning of the 1990s, the development of middle-class suburbs boomed. Due to the industrialization of many African countries, particularly in cities such as Cairo, Johannesburg and Lagos, the middle class has grown. In an illustrative case of South Africa, RDP housing has been built. In much of Soweto, many houses are American in appearance, but are smaller, and often consist of a kitchen and living room, two or three bedrooms, and a bathroom. However, there are more affluent neighborhoods, more comparable to American suburbs, particularly east of the FNB Stadium. In Cape Town there is a distinct European style which is due to the European influence during the mid-1600s when the Dutch conquered the area. Houses like these are called Cape Dutch Houses and can be found in the affluent suburbs of Constantia and Bishopscourt.
In the illustrative case of Rome, Italy, in the 1920s and 1930s, suburbs were intentionally created ex novo in order to give lower classes a destination, in consideration of the actual and foreseen massive arrival of poor people from other areas of the country. Many critics have seen in this development pattern (which was circularly distributed in every direction) also a quick solution to a problem of public order (keeping the unwelcome poorest classes together with the criminals, in this way better controlled, comfortably remote from the elegant "official" town). On the other hand, the expected huge expansion of the town soon effectively covered the distance from the central town, and now those suburbs are completely engulfed by the main territory of the town. Other newer suburbs (called exurbs) were created at a further distance from them.
In Russia, the term suburb refers to high-rise residential apartments which usually consist of two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. These suburbs, however are usually not in poor neighborhoods, unlike the banlieuees.
In China, the term suburb is new, although suburbs are already being constructed rapidly. Chinese suburbs mostly consist of rows upon rows of apartment blocks and condos that end abruptly into the countryside. Also new town developments are extremely common. Single family suburban homes tend to be similar to their Western equivalents; although primarily outside Beijing and Shanghai, also mimic Spanish and Italian architecture. In Hong Kong, however, suburbs are mostly government-planned new towns containing numerous public housing estates. New Towns such as Tin Shui Wai may gain notoriety as a slum. However, other new towns also contain private housing estates and low density developments for the upper classes.
In Japan, the construction of suburbs has boomed since the end of World War II and many cities are experiencing the urban sprawl effect.
In Malaysia, suburbs are common, especially in areas surrounding the Klang Valley, which is the largest conurbation in the country. These suburbs also serve as major housing areas and commuter towns. Terraced houses, semi-detached houses and shophouses are common concepts in suburbs. In certain areas such as Klang, Subang Jaya and Petaling Jaya, suburbs form the core of these places. The latter one has been turned into a satellite city of Kuala Lumpur. Suburbs are also evident in other smaller conurbations including Ipoh, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Alor Setar and Penang.
Suburbs typically have longer travel times to work than traditional neighborhoods. Only the traffic within the short streets themselves is less. This is due to three factors: almost-mandatory automobile ownership due to poor suburban bus systems, longer travel distances and the hierarchy system, which is less efficient at distributing traffic than the traditional grid of streets.
In the suburban system, most trips from one component to another component requires that cars enter a collector road, no matter how short or long the distance is. This is compounded by the hierarchy of streets, where entire neighborhoods and subdivisions are dependent on one or two collector roads. Because all traffic is forced onto these roads, they are often heavy with traffic all day. If a traffic accident occurs on a collector road, or if road construction inhibits the flow, then the entire road system may be rendered useless until the blockage is cleared. The traditional "grown" grid, in turn, allows for a larger number of choices and alternate routes.
Suburban systems of the sprawl type are also quite inefficient for cyclists or pedestrians, as the direct route is usually not available for them either. This encourages car trips even for distances as low as several hundreds of yards or meters (which may have become up to several miles or kilometers due to the road network). Improved sprawl systems, though retaining the car detours, possess cycle paths and footpaths connecting across the arms of the sprawl system, allowing a more direct route while still keeping the cars out of the residential and side streets.
The history of suburbia is part of the study of urban history, who focus on the origins, growth, diverse typologies, culture, and politics of suburbs, as well as on the gendered and family-oriented nature of suburban space. Many people have assumed that early-20th-century suburbs were enclaves for middle-class whites, a concept that carries tremendous cultural influence yet is actually stereotypical. Many suburbs are based on a heterogeneous society of working-class and minority residents, many of whom want to own their own house. Mary Corbin Sies argues that it is necessary to examine how "suburb" is defined as well as the distinction made between cities and suburbs, geography, economic circumstances, and the interaction of numerous factors that move research beyond acceptance of stereotyping and its influence on scholarly assumptions.
Suburbs and suburban living have been the subject for a wide variety of films, books, television shows and songs. The American photojournalist Bill Owens documented the culture of suburbia in the 1970s, most notably in his book Suburbia. The 1962 song "Little Boxes" by Malvina Reynolds lampoons the development of suburbia and its perceived bourgeois and conformist values, while the 1982 song Subdivisions by the Canadian band Rush also discusses suburbia. The 2010 album The Suburbs by the Canadian-based alternative band The Arcade Fire dealt with aspects of growing up in suburbia, suggesting aimlessness, apathy and endless rushing are ingrained into the suburban culture and mentality.
British television series such as The Good Life, Butterflies and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin have depicted suburbia as well-manicured but relentlessly boring, and its residents as either overly conforming or prone to going stir crazy. Contrastingly, U.S. shows – such as Desperate Housewives or Weeds – portray the suburbs as concealing darker secrets behind a façade of perfectly manicured lawns, friendly people, and beautifully up-kept houses. Films such as The 'Burbs, Disturbia and Hot Fuzz, have brought this theme to the cinema. This trope was also used in the episode of The X-Files "Arcadia" and on one level of the video game Psychonauts.
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