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BREAKING NEWS: Young People Don’t Want to Live Where Their Parents Did

January 18, 2011

The cast of CBS's How I Met Your Mother, TV's consummate young urban professionals. Source: purzuit.com

This is the message that came out of the National Homebuilders Association annual meeting in Orlando, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. According to the article, young people (born between 1980 and 2000, roughly) are eschewing the suburban cul-de-sacs where they were raised in favor of walkable, vibrant urban areas. A full 88 percent of them, according to the homebuilders’ study, prefer to live in urban areas, where they have easy access to shopping, dining and transit options. (Editor’s Note: as a bona-fide young person myself, I can confirm that the Homebuilders are indeed on to something. Of my 30 or so close friends from college, all live in a major metropolis, and the majority do not own cars).

Of course, this information does not come as a surprise to many in the smart growth field, who have been talking about this trend for years (hence the sarcastic headline). Indeed, during the keynote address at New Jersey Future’s 2010 Redevelopment Forum, economist Jeffrey Otteau spent much of his talk (.pdf) describing this phenomenon, and how it will influence development in New Jersey for decades to come.

This trend also has important policy implications, especially for towns grappling with how to accommodate new growth. Today, many towns are reluctant to allow for the type of higher-density, transit-oriented development attractive to young people because they fear that traffic and school kids (more precisely, the cost of educating those school kids) produced by the development will overwhelm their community. Yet the Homebuilders’ survey shows that many of these Gen Y’ers are not interested in having children or owning a car.

 

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