THE CHANGING TIDE
For the past 60 years, large-lot detached suburban homes have dominated housing development. However, research is beginning to show that all this may change very quickly, if it has not already. Aging baby boomers, young professionals, and many others prefer to live in downtowns or in the first-tier suburbs as opposed to the outer suburbs (Nelson, 2006). As demographics change, so will housing preferences.
By 2025, the United States is expected to experience an unparalleled rate of growth; the population will surpass 350 million people, or roughly 67 million more than in 2000. This will be the fastest rate of growth in any quarter century (U.S. Census). What makes the rise in population so interesting is what the demographic change will bring with it. Of the household growth between 2005 and 2030, roughly 88 percent will be households without children.
Specifically, single-person households will account for 34 percent (Nelson, 2006). Of the 32 million newly anticipated households, only four million will have children. This means that 73 percent of all households will be without children, which is substantially higher than the 1960 figure of 52 percent. A larger percent of this population will consist of people over the age of 65. Close to a quarter of a million U.S. residents were over the age of 65 in year 2000. By 2025 this figure will almost reach two million (Nelson, 2006).
This change in demographics also creates a change in the demand for housing types. Evidence shows that the future demand for large-lot (over 7,000 square feet) detached homes has already been met. In fact, Nelson (2006) anticipates an actual surplus of between three to 22 million large-lot homes. Although the demand will be met for large-lot homes, it appears that the existing number of attached and small-lot homes will not be met. Nelson (2006) predicts that the market demand for new housing will almost exclusively be for attached and small-lot homes.
For the first time in U.S. history, the appreciation rates for condos and co-ops are exceeding those of detached homes. While the demand for large-lot detached homes is on the decline, attached, small-lot homes are becoming increasingly more popular for many reasons. First and foremost, Americans want to live close to where they work (Smart Growth, 2004). Additionally, the rising costs of living and energy are forcing households to reevaluate a large home located in an isolated area. Currently, a majority of Americans favor housing developments that exhibit smart growth features. They want sidewalks, well-designed communities, mixed-uses, and compact housing (Smart Growth, 2004). Baby boomers and young adults are increasingly drawn to these features.
With the current economic hardships and the overabundance of large-lot detached homes, the demand for housing now resides in compact, well-designed neighborhoods that are in close proximity to amenities. Many are now arguing that the suburban template for housing is no longer meeting the growing demand for different housing options. If Delaware is going to keep up with the forecasts, we need to begin a new conversation about housing.