Jim Capecelatro, Senior Managing Director, Land Advisory Group
Ask the average person to define “suburb” and the answer will probably be something like, “the developed area around a city.” A typical real estate professional would probably add something like “suburbs tend to be lower density, more auto-oriented, and less spatially integrated in terms of land uses than urban areas.” Although those general descriptions may suffice in casual conversation or even some business contexts, they fall far short for understanding how housing conditions, trends, challenges, and opportunities are playing out within and across housing markets.
Here Are Some Facts That May Surprise You:
America remains a largely suburban nation. In America’s 50 largest (and most urbanized) metropolitan areas, suburbs account for 79% of the population, 78% of households, and 32% of the land area.
The large majority of Americans work in suburbs. Although job growth has been more balanced between suburbs and cities recently, as of 2014, 67.5% of employment in the 50 largest metro areas was in suburbs. Between 2010 and 2014, the number of jobs increased by 9% in suburbs, compared with 6% in urban areas.
The suburbs are “young” compared with their regions overall. 85% of children ages 18 and younger and, contrary to popular perception and most media attention, 75% of 25-to- 34-year olds in the 50 largest metro areas live in the suburbs.
American suburbs as a whole are racially and ethnically diverse. 76% of the minority population in the 50 largest metro areas lives in the suburbs – not much lower than the 79% of the population in these metro areas as a whole.
Key Observations & Trends to Watch:
Millennials, seniors and minorities all prefer suburbs. Affordability is a major driver behind the appeal of suburbia, especially for first-time home buyers, with good schools and community amenities ranking high as well. Statistics support the continued migration to suburbs over urban areas by these demographics.
Millennials will place importance on sustainability in suburbs. A New York Times article by Alan M. Berger discusses how millennials are not “suburb-hating city dwellers”. Although they dislike the monotony and wastefulness of traditional “cookie-cutter” neighborhoods, they recognize the environmental benefits the “urban peripheries”. Home and lot sizes will be smaller, paving reduced and energy conservation will be a high priority. In the rainy regions of the country we will see advanced water management while in the Sunbelt states we will see more emphasis on solar energy.
A smarter landscape will be the suburban norm. Neighborhoods will be friendlier with sidewalks and walk-bike paths that connect to open spaces and community areas. Vegetable gardens, recreational venues and other amenities will be thoughtfully placed for residents’ use and enjoyment.
Mixed-use centers will be the heartbeat of tomorrow’s suburbs. Across the country, suburbs are developing mixed-use centers with retail, entertainment, transportation and various other “urban-style” community amenities. These are walkable ‘downtown” areas often located in the once blighted areas of our suburbs.
Technology will help shape the suburbs of tomorrow. New suburban developments will utilize technology like autonomous electric cars (parked at solar-powered remote lots) instead of private driveways and traditional garages. Neighborhoods will have smart street lighting and will share drone ports for package deliveries.
The suburbs of today are not dying and the future of suburbs is not uncertain. Suburbs will continue to hold a prominent place in the American landscape and, in many regards, lead the country in developing cutting-edge communities that appeal to a broad range of our population. The foremost challenge confronting suburbs may well be how to integrate with their neighboring urban areas and together address the important environmental challenges and technological changes facing them.
Based in Denver, CO, Jim Capecelatro is a Senior Managing Director with Cushman & Wakefield’s Land Advisory Group.
“A New Way of Understanding Suburban Housing Markets”, Housing in the Evolving American Suburb, Urban Land Institute, 2016.
“The Quiet Revolution Happening in the Suburbs”, Alan Greenblatt, December 2017.
“The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here”, The New York Times, Alan M. Berger, September 15, 2017.
“The Urban Revival is an Urban Myth, and the Suburbs are Surging”, The Daily Beast, Joel Kotkin and Alan M. Berger, December 03, 2017.