City life is making a comeback, sort of.
Last month the brains at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released its annual report that details the nation’s housing trends. There is a lot of information for real estate junkies to comb through, but one area that has caught the media’s attention is a bona fide American trend.
The 44-page report states that between 2000 and 2010, Americans continued to move to the suburbs and beyond. Harvard studied the nation’s 100 largest metros and concluded that during the aught 21 percent of household growth in the States occurred in urban cores (essentially population-dense areas in cities). At the same time 38 percent of growth occurred in suburbs, and 41 percent in exurbs (areas beyond suburbs).
The Wall Street Journal argues that the growth in suburbs and exurbs is largely driven by price factors.
Regardless, there were five cities that saw a modicum of growth in densely-populated areas compared to suburbs and exurbs. These five cities were:
This means that in these five cities people are pushing aside the ‘burbs at a greater pace. Goodbye, Green Acres!
The team behind the study looked at a plethora of sources when creating the document, including information from the Census Bureau, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Information on the state of the nation’s urban sprawl came primarily from the Decennial Census.
Who is Moving to the City?
The question of why a larger percentage of people chose to move to these cities’ densely-populated areas is difficult to answer. It’s likely a lifestyle decision. Suburbs are low-density areas that, whether we like it or not, have been attached to the ephemeral concept of the American Dream. A home in the suburbs is a status symbol linked to the middle class and upward mobility.
On the other hand, the beauty of an ever-changing concept such as the American Dream is it can be interpreted in a number of different ways by any number of different people. This includes people who shun the ‘burbs for urban living.
Who are these people with their own American Dream? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. But there are educated guesses. These new urbanites are members of Generation Y (aka echo-boomers and millennials). Based on a series of articles from RCLCO, a company that specializes in real estate issues, Gen Y is 1.7 times more likely to live in a city than other generations.
At the same time, the National Association of Realtors have stated that 31 percent of Gen Y wants to live in a city. This is significantly higher than other generations. Somewhere between 14 to 18 percent of Generation X want to live in the city. This figure is similar for Baby Boomers.
Now that we know who wants to live in densely-populated areas, the question becomes why? This is relatively simple to answer. Generation Y has an interest in convenience. This holds true for myriad areas–work, shopping, services, and entertainment. Densely-populated areas have these conveniences, even if it means giving up on backyard BBQs and larger floor space.