Rural vs Urban Life

I love getting messages from friends and readers. What follows is an exchange with a particularly thoughtful client discussing rural and urban life in the Charlottesville area. (my words are italicized) *

Actual urban living in Charlottesville is becoming rather unaffordable for many folks.

Suburbia is not urban living.

When I moved, I had the choice between urban and rural living. If I had wanted urban I would have gone to an actual city, like Richmond or DC.

The reason I am here, and many others are drawn here as well, is the beautiful nature.

Edge Valley Road near Batesville

In order to maintain that beauty, the rural home owner needs to maintain being a relevant part of the housing discussion.

Whilst people like the conveniences of walkability and such, they certainly appreciate to pass by the beautiful rural settings on their way to their favorite brewery or vineyard.


The trend to want to be close to others and stuff is natural.

What I take issue with is the rhetoric that shapes minds and values.  Also, actual values in the end as one of your contributors pointed out recently.

Maybe writing occasionally about the beautiful country homes with their inherit joys, such as freedom, beauty, space, being able to create things (without being subjected to homeowners associations) in your garden, wood projects, biking ramps, ponds, whatever.

Feeding one’s family with homegrown veggies and eggs, those are values that still matter for a lot of people.

I would like this perspective to get an equal amount of airtime.


Finding the balance between suitable housing, lot size, proximity to stuff is challenging. Recently, many want to have the nice stuff (parks, mountains, restaurants, schools) accessible without having the larger piece of land to maintain and care for.

I attribute a large part of this to the busyness that many feel, but also to a lack of skills and desire to do things that require work. This seems to of been happening for a long time, but just in the last 10 years, it has accelerated.

Look at the growth trends, both of population, density and location, and we see that many are moving to to urban and suburban areas. Now, many millennials are flocking to suburbs.

For the fifth year in a row, population growth slowed in major U.S. cities in 2016. An analysis by FiveThirtyEight of Census Bureau data indicates that lower-density suburbs experienced the fastest growth, an average of 1.3%, in 2016 – the fastest rate there since the housing crash put the brakes on homebuilding in 2008. 

Also –

Millennials want suburban houses after all and American surburbs are on the rise again — and it’s millennials who are moving there

If everyone flocks to suburbia who will ensure this?

Crozet school traffic

Rural land owners seem to be getting a stigma of being not environmentally friendly, because you are not close to stuff.

Again, I am inclined to disagree.

How much more recycling can you do then recycling an old or used house?

Taking on an existing house means that something new does not have to be built, means that farm land or agricultural land is not destroyed.

Jim’s interjection

New homes require far less energy to run than older properties, but building them generates plenty of CO2 

The carbon footprint of a house:
80 tonnes CO2e: A newbuild two-bed cottage
The carbon footprint of building a house depends on all kinds of things – including, of course, the size of the house and the types of materials chosen.

I played with a carbon calculator.

By taking on a rural property and tending to flower beds and gardens we support butterflies, amphibians, snakes, birds, and local wild life.

Those things don’t thrive in cities or suburbia as they do in the rural environment.

Basically I want to make a stance for people like myself that choose to live in a rural setting.

I know that for many, being close to stuff is what matters, that a home is where you rest between adventures out in the world.

That is all very well, but not everyone feels that way.

Jim again … I don’t have much to add other than as a culture and society, we need to be mindful of the beauty that surrounds us, and remember that with the push for urbanization in Charlottesville and Albemarle, we risk alienating many who choose a rural, quieter, more sustainable lifestyle.

When publications such as Expedia note that Crozet is the most beautiful town in Virginia,

Crozet is a charming place where farmland meets mountains. There’s something alluring about the downtown scene as the buildings seem frozen in time with the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains as their backdrop. To get a taste of this slice of Virginia, take a tour of the King Family Vineyards, where you can sample the local libations and see the vines up close. Come nightfall, stay at The Inn at Sugar Hollow Farm, an enchanting B&B, nestled within the wine country.

They don’t remark on the unyielding and unceasing new construction that is changing our landscape. We need to be aware of what we have, and embrace and welcome those who keep this a beautiful place to live.

Lastly, living in the country is not an isolating experience.

Take Batesville (and many other villages in the area) for example.  Neighbors know each other and look out for each other.

Batesville has a neighborhood app for communication and a Ruritan group that spearheads community efforts, like trail building for the Batesville community, creating play spaces for children, etc.

I have had this conversation with a lot of people – friends and clients – over the years. In many situations, rural neighbors know each other much more frequently than do suburban neighbors. I propose that this has been a constant in rural areas through real estate booms and busts, versus suburbia during the real estate booms and busts when many owned homes for relatively short – 3 to 5 years for many – periods of time. Since the bust, when many ended up being forced to stay and put down roots, I’d argue that many suburban neighborhoods have recaptured the closeness that people seek.

Rural and (sub)urban can coexist.

*A few edits here and there for clarity.

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