What do houses in distant suburbs and low-mileage cars have in common?

Unfortunately for the owners of either, they’re both losing value.

That’s the connection — echoed by SGA — in a Wall Street Journal piece this morning on today’s front page by Ana Campoy on gasoline consumption and miles driven trending downwards, and how it’s beginning to drastically affect Americans’ housing and transportation choices:

Meanwhile, people have begun migrating from far-flung suburbs to urban centers where commuting distances are shorter and public transit is more easily accessed. In a poll this month of more than 900 Coldwell Banker residential-real-estate agents mainly in urban markets, more than 70% of them said their clients increasingly are interested in living in the city to shrink their gasoline bill.

“The McMansion in the half-finished subdivision in a distant suburb has become the equivalent of the large SUV that people can’t unload,” says David Goldberg, spokesman for Smart Growth America, a group that advocates for more compact, walkable communities.

That’s one of the very real, unfortunate effects that the increasing prices are having. And there’s no real relief to be seen on the horizon as far as prices go. As we mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter, a poll in late 2007 commissioned by SGA found that 92 percent of Americans believe that gas prices are only going to go higher. And they’re beginning to change their behaviour, looking to (overburdened) transit systems, and for homes close to their jobs.

It’s time to increase our investment in public transportation, and to break down the barriers that are keeping the market at large from responding to this pent-up demand for housing in walkable neighborhoods that are convenient to work, school, and everything else.