Demographic trends of urban growth and postponed marriage age have led to fewer Americans living in single-family homes

2012-11-17T00:00:00Z Demographic trends of urban growth and postponed marriage age have led to fewer Americans living in single-family homesLisa Iannucci CTW Features
November 17, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Is the dream of owning a single-family home withering away? Possibly, according to a new report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice that shows that Americans are moving to multi-family homes, rather than single-family homes. This is a big change from the behavior over the last 50 years.

“The 1950s to 1970s witnessed a period of flight from urban downtowns, which were often perceived as polluted, overcrowded and congested, leaving many downtowns deserted and economically stagnant, particularly in former industrial cities,” says Eric Bloom, senior research analyst at Pike Research. “In the last few decades, the perception of the downtown has changed, and many now view urban centers, where multifamily units are more common, as desirable.”

The number of people residing in single-family homes is now decreasing, and by 2021, the total area of single-family homes in the United States will have shrunk by nearly 4 billion square feet, according to the report. These numbers are based on occupancy rather than built square footage, Bloom says.

He explains that this has been driven, in part, by changing demographics. “For example, the average age of first marriage in the U.S. was 20 in 1950; today, it’s 26, so Americans are starting families at a later age, deferring demand for single-family homes and increasing the demand for shared units or smaller units in multi-family buildings.”

While the U.S. residential building stock continues to grow, some areas are hotter than others.

“According to a recent study from Trulia, about half the major metropolitan areas, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and Philadelphia,” are experiencing more urban growth than suburban growth, Bloom says. “In contrast, that study found that suburban growth in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix is outpacing urban growth.”

Suburban growth doesn’t necessarily mean single-family home growth. In the suburbs, “condominiums and townhouses are growing in popularity, but there are more single-family homes in suburban than urban areas,” Bloom says.

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