Walkable cities and changing demographics

Portland Light RailAlthough we are still bouncing off the bottom of the residential real estate cycle, there will be a recovery at some point. Where will it come from and what will drive it? The Brookings Institute released a report recently exploring what might drive the next boom in real estate. Their answer: walkable cities.

While the decline in far flung suburban living has been on the decline at least since the spike in gas prices in the mid-2000s, they see that trend accelerating during the next real estate cycle due to Boomer demand for smaller, easier to manage living and the Millennial’s penchant for city living:

Their aspirations have been informed by Friends and Sex in the City, shows set in walkable urban places, as opposed to their parents’ mid-century imagery of Leave It to Beaver and Brady Bunch, set in the drivable suburbs. Not surprisingly, fully 77 percent of millennials plan to live in America’s urban cores. The largest group of millennials began graduating from college in 2009, and if this group rents for the typical three years, from 2013 to 2018 there will be more aspiring first-time homebuyers in the American marketplace than ever before—and only half say they will be looking for drivable suburban homes.

The report recommends a re-evaluation of both local and federal rules that drive traditional suburban sprawl development in favor of compact, mass-transit focused smart growth.

Looking for more information on Smart Growth and what it might mean to you? Check out NAR’s Government Affairs’ Smarth Growth webpage.


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  1. The combination of young people and plenty of boomers indeed leads to the conclusion that a walkable city will be one here people want to live for a number of years to come. A walkable community also will be attractive and manageable for the amputees coming home from the wars in a chair, those who choose not to drive or not to drive much out of concern about greenhouse gases and climate change, and people who need to learn to slow down and de-stress.

    Some percentage of those young people who love cities and clubbing now will move out to the suburbs when they have children unless we can improve schools. So my conclusion is that solving the problems facing most cities is still a critical problem, regardless of whether metropolitan life is appealing to the young crowd right now or not.

  2. Walkable suburbs are also important. I’ve been interviewing homeowners in Costa Mesa, CA where I work and everyone I talk to expresses how important it is for them to be able to walk to the park, school, or nearby shops. Thanks for the story!

  3. i agree. I keep hearing people want convenience, which means living close to amenities. Homes will become smaller or be in large complexes to accommodate the growth in the movement of people back to more urban environments.

    This piece is suggesting that the latter part of this decade should see a flood of new, young buyers out in the marketplace. These young buyers will have been living in apartments close to amenities and will want to continue that lifestyle with a home purchase.

  4. Cleveland has expanded its downtown residential numbers. People want to be close to the action, nightlife, shops, bars, restaurants and being able to walk/bike/easily commute to work in a more diverse environment. The days of the 30-45 minute traffic jams just doesn’t appeal to everyone anymore…