A 2015 study by ULI Washington has resurfaced to shed light on what has changed and what has not concerning the relationship millennials have with their cities. According to Pew Research Center, millennials – defined as those between 18 and 34 years old – reached 75.4 million in 2015, surpassing the largest generation in the U.S. – the 74.9 million “baby boomers” between ages 51 and 69.
The study finds that there’s an “upbeat” young population satisfied with their housing, their neighborhoods and their transportation alternatives. This shows that, two years ago, Columbia and the inner suburbs inside the Beltway were not threatened by millennials moving out. Half of the respondents were also receptive to the idea of raising children inside the Beltway. However 58 percent of renters said they’d have to move beyond the Beltway to buy housing they could afford, especially with a child or more.
In 2017, with the housing crisis still going on across cities in the U.S., millennials who couple up to form families can no longer afford their lifestyles in apartments in high-rise properties. As they move out to more affordable areas, they’re still not satisfied, because they miss out on the privileges they got used to in city centers, such as walkability and proximity to both public transit and work. In Washington, Matthew and Ana Bilbao Horn, both 32, struggle to stay in the city now that they want to buy a house. In spite of how much they like their neighborhood near Union Market in Northeast Washington, they can’t fit their family in a one-bedroom apartment, which means that their six-month-old daughter sleeps in a crib in the living room. “I’m realizing the things I want to provide for her, we won’t be able to afford in D.C.,” he says. The young parents are currently working on coming to terms with having to move out of the city for their daughter’s interest.
Although the total number of millennials increased by 6.8 percent nationally between 2000 and 2013, millennials living in New Jersey fell by 2.3 percent, according to Census data. Growing up surrounded by almost 50 kids, 69-year-old Jeff Whipple watched them grow and move out of the city as soon as they joined a generation of millennials unable to afford a living. At 47 percent, New Jersey has the highest rate of millennials living with their parents in the U.S. This is in comparison with a national percentage of just 33 percent.
City planners in New Jersey and Washington are trying to figure out the needs and concerns of millennial residents, who often end up moving out altogether. Lee Jones, a city planner from Nashville, found that millennials don’t want big yards, but don’t want to be in a big apartment building either. They want a duplex or a triplex or townhouse. “They want something close to work and coffee shops, but they don’t want to take care of a yard.”
Gwen Wright, planning director for Montgomery County, believes that it is feasible to provide millennials with what they are looking for; being close to transit-oriented areas but having the same benefits of a single-family house, losing the old-school yard and picket fence. “My sense is millennials are looking for more than that half-acre. They’re looking for community and walkability. They’ve gotten used to those [in cities],” he adds. Among the 5,274 millennials surveyed in the study, 1,056 ranked proximity to work to be their top priority, while walkability and public transit followed.
The case remains the same with U.S.’s neighbor, Canada. Vancouver, crowned as one of the most expensive housing markets in North America, is beginning to embrace younger generations by allowing more duplexes and “stacked” townhouses with two units. “I think it’s very significant that we’re understanding people want to live in the core of urban areas again,” says Gil Kelley, planning director for Vancouver, B.C. “We’re reversing a 60- to 70-year trend of people moving out to suburbs…This is not just a fad for a decade. This is a multi-decade shift.”
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