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The suburbs and the sound of crickets

The suburbs

In 2015, I wrote a book called The Stackable Boomer. Below is a chapter.

In subsequent posts on this blog, I will share insights from the book, from our research, and from the developers, architects, planners, designers, authors and Harvard professors who contributed their ideas on how we can do a better job building homes in high-density communities specifically for Boomers.

The suburbs and the sound of crickets

This post is about what will happen to the suburbs as Boomers flee for multi-family housing (MFH) in more-dense urban neighbourhoods. The poor old suburbs are worth a mention, because what happens to them next will likely be a very big deal.

In the course of reading and research of this topic I found plenty of material on the subject of suburban decay.

There are those who predict the lure of living in MFH will prove so strong that huge numbers of single-family homes will be put on the market. When too many of anything gets put on the market in too short a period of time, we all know what happens: prices decline, people compete for buyers, and the entire marketplace begins to feel not-so-nice for those trying to sell.

Some analysts are even predicting the sale of single-family homes by Boomers to an unresponsive market will trigger the next housing market crash. Millions of Boomers trying to ditch the suburban homes they’ve lived in for the last decade could face few, if any, interested buyers.

Generation X doesn’t want those giant suburban homes. Even if they did, there aren’t enough Generation X’ers to buy the homes that will be on the market. The Millennials are perfectly happy living downtown and raising their kids in an urban environment. In fact, by 2030 there will be 500,000 more single-family homes available than there will be people to buy them in the USA.

If the Boomer Housing Bust is on the horizon at some point in the future, what will happen? Boomers will find other options, and create new opportunities. They are a resilient bunch and will adapt.

Mary Meehan, writing on the subject for Forbes Magazine, suggests: “It’s time for Boomers themselves to further flex with creative housing solutions like condo conversions, boarding house conversions, co- housing, shared purchase of apartment buildings. If they can’t get out of their current homes Boomers need to consider radical renovations – to their houses and to their way of life – that will allow them to age in place, bring new people into their homes, and generally start to live a little differently.”

For those of us in the development industry, there are two opportunities present. The influx of Boomers to high-density MFH is one. What to do with the suburban sprawl that will gradually, eventually, somewhat creepily be left behind is the subject for an entirely new book.

Any questions or comments are always welcome at david@davidallisoninc.com, or in the comment fields below.


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David Allison

About the Author ()

David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting version of any story for early stakeholder engagement, internal audiences, regulatory approvals, consultant briefings, and investor recruitment. His award-winning work in the real estate sector alone spans decades and continents. His most recent book, The Stackable Boomer, examines the movement of Baby Boomers to Multi-Family homes, and includes research results from a 1000-Boomer survey. He can be reached at david@davidallisoninc.com

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