Are You Ready for the Next Housing Bubble?

Studies and conventional wisdom tell us that the suburbs are the new slums. But that is not stopping developers from building thousands of brand new houses—with elevators!—among the empty shells of foreclosed suburban homes. And people are buying.

The Times looks at a burgeoning housing boom outside Las Vegas, where optimistic builders are throwing 1,100 new homes up in a market where 5,600 houses were repossessed this year alone. It's probably true that at even at the lowest point of the recession we could find someone like real estate promoter Richard Lee shouting out frontier boosterisms about the housing market even as it collapsed around him:

The chance to make money on the next housing boom "is like it's never been," Mr. Lee, a real estate promoter, assured a crowd of agents, investors and bankers. "We're going to come back like you've never seen us before."

But this does not make it any less absurd. Driving this new building frenzy is apparently homebuyers' obsession with new housing. They are not going to pay good money for a house with ghosts living in the walls: they want to snap the plastic wrapping themselves off some brand new inventory. And as builders race to cut costs to match the dirt-cheap market, it's only a matter of time before those homes are delivered fully assembled and shrinkwrapped, and plopped on a scrub-strewn lot between two shuttered homes.

So, the suburbs are a getting a little more complicated than simply neo-slums: Yeah, they'll have the pre-recession homes whose market value is now less than the materials used to build them, slowly sinking into decay. But standing among them will be these brand new McMansions, proudly pretending that the last 2/12 years didn't even happen. We'll call this new development: Optimism Heights.