We are buying a house that is in a somewhat suburban area just inside the city limits, the only reason being that it's all we can afford......
As much as I am for high density, traditional neighborhoods and new urbanism, I am going to be moving to one of those "mass-produced" neighborhoods very soon. The neighborhood is still inside the city limits and has a pretty cool design, but it's much farther away from downtown than I would like to be. The hard fact is, though, that we simply can't afford to buy a house in the central part of the city. They are WAY too expensive now! The only house we could afford within the city limits is the new one we're getting (and another, smaller one that isn't much closer). Everything else is in the suburbs.
I think it's unfair that the average, middle class citizen cannot afford to live in the city anymore. I know that lots of families move out to the suburbs because they want to but I never thought about those of us who go there out of necessity... because that's where the only affordable housing exists (that isn't the ghetto anyway).
I know that many American cities have yet to be gentrified and the downtown areas are extremely cheap to live in, but most of them are changing this. The city I live in, Austin, Texas, has always had a thriving downtown area and the population of the city is relatively young (average age is only 29). Downtown and the central neighborhoods are extremely popular and have become quite expensive. There is a great deal of gentrification going on in the historic areas as well. The only cheaper areas are the East side but these neighborhoods are pretty run down in most areas and I would not feel very comfortable in them. It's not that they are very unsafe or anything but I would be looked at as an "outsider" being that I'm white. There has been a lot of struggle in that area due to the long-term residents opposing "all these white people moving in and increasing the property values to unaffordable levels".
We have an apartment in a neighborhood now that is the prime example of what a real neighborhood should be like. Mixed densities, locally owned shops, historic homes that were built in the 1930's-1940's, lots of pedestrian activity and easy access to mass transit. A very tiny home in this area, though, would cost close to $300,000... and that's just for one that needs a lot of work. One that's been restored would be even more. The area we're moving to will let us get a nice sized house for half that price. I will be fairly close to the nearest bus stop but probably not walking distance (maybe biking distance). My commute downtown will be about 25-30 minutes in peak traffic. I know I shouldn't complain too much as most people have worse commutes than this, but I'd much rather be able to walk downtown in 15 minutes like I can now. This, however, is completely out of the question. I simply am not wealthy enough to buy one of those expensive homes. Even the downtown condos (which are extremely nice) cost $3-400,000 for a 1-bedroom.
I don't want to be out in B.F.E., I don't want to be car-dependant, I don't want to be forced to shop at big box places...... but what choice do I have? We're making the best of what we can. It will be a nice house and a nice place to live but it is not a place I'd want to live more than a few years.