U.S. Temporary Housing Trend: Millennials and the “Walkable Urban Neighborhood”
When relocating Millennials (those in their early 30’s and younger), keep in mind that they place a premium on experiences and highly desire living in dense, walkable urban cores. In this contribution, our partners at CORT illuminate “what Generation Y” really looks for in their new destination.
Recent studies show Millennials leading a trend of driving less. While Americans drove more miles each year between 1946 and 2004, today they drive less than 2004, and no more per person than in 1996. The decline is most striking among young people: those aged 16 to 34 drove 23% fewer miles on average in 2009 than their age group did in 2001. This is a greater decline in driving than any other demographic and highlights a generational shift.
New Generation, New American Dream
Millennials are pursuing a very different American dream than their parents and grandparents. In contrast to the car-centric suburban sprawl extolled by previous generations, they seek walkable urban environments. The reasons are multifold and touch on new economic realities, a premium placed on experiences, and an emphasis on sustainability.
Older Millennials were particularly hard hit by the 2008 recession. As they struggled to get a footing in their careers and faced salary setbacks – all while servicing higher student loan debt than previous generations – they looked for ways to trim their expenses. Realizing that savings could be achieved by living closer to their jobs, and by walking or using public transportation, they have gravitated toward the urban cores where this is possible.
These city centers tend to have more apartments than single-family homes, and this suits not only their budgets, but their lifestyle. While new reports often focus on the inability of Millennials to save for a down payment on a house, the deeper
Millennials are also attracted to the concept of sustainability. truth is that many do not even want one. Quite simply, a white picket fence does not mesh with their priorities. For one thing, they are forming families later, and while suburban neighborhoods might feel safe and secure to those with children, they are isolating and boring to singles and young couples.
Not only are cities simply more fun, but Millennials view experiences as a kind of cultural capital. Rather than try to keep up with the Joneses by buying a bigger house or car, they gravitate toward novel encounters, which they can share via social media through their smart phones. Instead of mowing the lawn or managing home maintenance, this generation prefers to spend the weekend perusing farmers’ markets, partaking in festivals, and sampling microbrews. They then ensure bragging rights and build community with their far-flung network of friends by tweeting about it on Twitter and posting photos to Instagram.
Beyond engaging in a new interpretation of cool, Millennials are also attracted to the concept of sustainability. In light of greater awareness about carbon footprints, small has become the new big. Rather than great rooms and massive kitchens for entertaining, Millennials appreciate clever design that maximizes the use of space. This collaborative and social generation is also more willing to share and sincerely wants to build community. Enter the micro apartment, a dwelling of 250-300 square feet which includes private bathrooms and modern amenities, but requires sharing a patio – and sometimes a kitchen – with neighbors. While perhaps unimaginable a few years ago, they are being scooped up not only by recent grads and young urban singles, but also service workers and retirees. They appeal because they limit consumption and are easy to maintain, leaving more time and money for enjoying all that a city has to offer them. In the Millennial mentality, what they might sacrifice in personal, private space, they more than make up for in access to the vast public space right outside their door.
Reshaping the Nation
As young people pursue the neighborhoods of their dreams instead of the homes of their dreams, they are reshaping the urban landscape. The influx has been most pronounced in San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., Orlando, San Jose and Denver, which all experienced at least a 15% increase in young adults over the past five years. However, their impact has been felt everywhere, even in older cities like Cleveland and Columbus.
Cities are responding by prioritizing the needs and expectations of Millennials. Some places are changing zoning laws and residential housing regulations to permit micro apartments. Others are remaking the city to provide the kinds of experiences they seek. In the Midwest extensive building has occurred and enormous investment has been made at urban university campuses, which feature new residential-with-retail development. This prioritizing of Millennial needs can come at the expense of other demographics and as a result does not please everyone. Regardless, the truth is that Millennials are here to stay.
As the Millennial generation continues to mature, it will exert an even greater influence not only on the urban landscape, but on all aspects of society and the economy. Relocation is no exception, and companies who handle mobility needs for young transferees cannot afford to be catching up on this important trend. CORT is ahead of the curve in recognizing and responding to this shift. Together, as a partner with Bristol Global Mobility, we ensure that all transferring employees’ needs are met and are ready to serve the Millennial generation.
Patrick J. Moore, Director, Destination Services, CORT, A Berkshire Hathaway Company
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