2009-03-31wsj.com

The Disciannos are among many exurban families losing their homes and their grip on the dream of home ownership. The exurbs were among the fastest growing counties during the boom -- entire civilizations built around the idea of owning real estate. With home prices falling and unemployment rising, more people are renting -- just as they had before the boom -- and turning the community into a rental economy.

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What is happening on the urban fringe is similar to the urban decay that plagued cities after World War II, says Christopher B. Leinberger, a real-estate developer and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Single-family homes and townhouses in cities were broken into rental units. Now, we're seeing that phenomenon move out to the fringe."


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