February 2012

Volume 21, Number 2

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Changing Demographics Could Lead to More Sustainable Communities

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By Erin Weaver

A new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), “What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy,” predicts that current demographic and economic trends will dramatically change urban development over the course of this decade as “Generation Y” preferences in employment and lifestyle come to dominate the market.

As they enter their 20s and 30s, says the report, members of Generation Y are concerned with “rightsizing”: living in smaller, more affordable spaces in exchange for easier commutes and access to resources. At the same time, their parents (the Baby Boomers) find themselves entering retirement with dwindling savings and downsizing from suburbia to the same compact, walkable communities their children are choosing. These vibrant urban centers may in turn attract companies seeking Generation Y workers, reversing a trend toward remote suburban workplaces designed for long-distance commuters.In addition to choosing more efficient locations, the report claims, developers are learning that energy-saving technology pays for itself and that “ignoring sustainability issues speeds property obsolescence.” Asserting that the continuing global recession marks a turning point in real estate, the report counsels investors to focus on sustainability. Says ULI chairman Peter S. Rummell, “If we are to be successful, the communities we shape now will have to serve the needs of those who follow after us.


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February 2, 2012