Demographic shifts and changing values in both urban and suburban areas are driving an increased demand for pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use communities that offer a variety of housing choices.
In his recent report: Housing in America: The Next Decade, John McIlwain of the Urban Land Institute states that “The age of suburbanization and growing homeownership is over…The coming decades will be the time of the great reurbanization as 24/7 central cities grow and suburbs around the country are redeveloped with new or revived walkable suburban town centers.”
According to McIlwain, this transition will be fueled by the growth of two-person households, an end to baby boomers’ suburban infatuation and public policies designed to stimulate compact development. In his report, McIlwain points to four key demographic trends:
- Older Baby Boomers are becoming seniors. In the coming decade, fewer of the older Boomers will be moving. Those who have not sold their suburban homes will find themselves trapped by falling prices and a weak seller’s market. Those that can move are no longer flocking to the Sun Belt, instead moving closer to their children and grandchildren.
- Younger Baby Boomers are facing very different challenges. They have decades before they consider retiring and their children are likely to still be at home. Some may find their suburban homes now “underwater” and those not underwater will be hard to sell.
- Generation X and Y will be renting far longer than past generations. This generation’s attitudes toward homeownership have been changed by the housing crisis and the recession. They see people trapped by homes that can’t be sold and millions of foreclosures, which have tempered their interest in buying their own homes. This generation has to pay off existing school loans and has lost the confidence of prior generations that homeownership is a way to develop wealth. They say they want to live in urban areas, not in the suburbs where they grew up, and they are willing to live in a smaller space in order to afford this lifestyle.
- Immigrants and their children will want to move to the suburbs, but may find them too expensive despite the current drop in housing prices.
McIlwains report is focused at the national level, as these trends are not specific to any one city or region. The report goes on to talk about what these trends mean for the housing market, and how these trends will shape the built environment in years to come. These nationally-recognized trends are apparent and prevalent in the Atlanta region.