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PMarch 22, 2012

Moving in with Granny: Mixing Shuffleboard and Volleyball?

Hard to imagine that there is a trend to move in with grandma, but the Millennial generation is about to surprise you. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. The number of youth aged 25-35 who now live with their parents has increased 50% over the past decade. And the implication could be a change in the way housing is offered and communities are organized. It looks like we need to prepare for communities with shuffleboard and volleyball, side by side.

Volleyball02The good news? We don’t really foresee a trend for Millennials to move in with Granny, but we do see them being neighbors. Neighbors in mixed used villages, where you can get a cup of coffee by foot, access a community center and stroll along tree lined streets. What “Nona” and her grandchildren do share is a desire to rent, a desire for amenities accessible by foot, a social community, security, and active and passive recreation. The convergence of these independent, but related demands on housing are a radical departure and are fueled by the human desire to connect and the economic pressures of the new economy. We may be returning to the style of community plan that existed pre-1950.

car-300x180Today, the growing combination of Millennial children and Baby Boomers equals 150 million. 150 million new consumers of retail goods, services, healthcare, and of course community each year.  And as discussed, when it comes to community, both groups want the same things:  walkability, socialization, compact lots, convenient amenities and safety.  The other influential fact is that because they are both very young and very mature groups, the aggregate family size is much smaller.  According to researcher Christopher B. Leinberger in his book, “The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream”, housing growth will be created by the empty-nester and singles.  According to Leinberger, childless households are expected to grow by 28 million by 2025.  The buying preference of this demographic could have significant consequences on community.

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From the 1950s through the 1990s, our communities evolved from the influence of the automobile.  After WWII, as children, Baby Boomers (currently 50-70 years old now) were part of a movement out of cities, expedited by the GI Bill, public investment in the interstate highway system and the dramatic expansion of local roads.  Soon, these children would go to schools built in cornfields, return to homes built around cul-de-sacs and had parents who worked in far off cities. The love for the automobile, family size, new found income, and public investment in infrastructure all contributed to a shift from cities to suburbs. The result, decayed cities and significant consumption of farmland on a per person basis.  Baby boomers, who were a product of these changes, are now stuck in the midst of another shift as they enter their “senior” years.

From the 1980s until the recession started in 2007, the response to seniors was the continuous care retirement community (CCRC).  I like to call the CCRC “the cruise ship in the cornfield.”  On one floor there is dining, on another recreation, on another retail and education.  Above it all are the living quarters.

active-adultThe only thing missing is the crow’s nest on the roof!  Today, these options are too expensive for the financially constrained Baby Boomers and the CCRC could take years to become financeable again.  Unfortunately time is not on their side.

The prediction is that the confluence of these events will inspire the development of mixed-use towns and villages that will accommodate both the Millennial needs and the Baby Boomers’ desires.  Expect to see shift toward urban areas or towards new urbanist communities like the Kentlands, MD or the planned Town of Whitehall, DE.

Before long, we’ll be playing shuffleboard next to volleyball.  And that may just be a good thing!

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