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Housing goes back to the future

If we all end up living in the city, should it be any more surprising that we could also all end up using open source?

I just read a fascinating analysis of housing trends in the United States in The Atlantic. Following on a January/February report on how the subprime credit crisis is driving suburban homes into foreclosure...leaving the other homes in the neighborhood that much less valuable due to perception (overgrown yards, etc.) and renters.

In an increasing number of cases, urbanites are moving out to the suburbs in search of affordable housing, while suburbanites move into the cities in search of excitement and culture.

But as Christopher Leinberger suggests in the March issue of The Atlantic [Not yet online], this long-term trend back into the city for the middle and upper classes started long before the subprime crisis. Research by Arthur C. Nelson (Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech) "forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes...by 2025 - that's roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today" (71). As this happens, the projection is that the affluent McMansion neighborhoods of today will likely become the slums of tomorrow.

Leinberger analyzes housing prices (prices are at a premium in the cities or urban-esque living centers like Reston Town Center in Virginia), popular media (Hollywood used to portray the city as the emotional wasteland - think Escape from New York - but now looks to the suburbs for the same - think Desperate Housewives), and other data sources. It makes for a compelling argument that while we may not all end up living the Friends lifestyle (thankfully), more and more of us will end up in the city or in city-like neighborhoods.

It's fascinating to see how something as semi-permanent as housing can change. Should it be any more surprising how quickly our perceptions of software can change? From selling proprietary bits to selling services around open-source bits in less than 10 to 20 years. Life changes much more than we think.

In the case of open source, it's changing for the better.