Kaid Benfield of NRDC brings us this article on the changes in the real estate market that show positive indicators for smart growth, transit-oriented development and New Urbanism. The shift from sprawl domination to some level of urbanity was already beginning before the recession, and that along with rampant foreclosures and rising gas prices could very easily continue the trend, hopefully to the point where sprawl doesn’t come back as the dominant building form. There are more foreclosures in suburbs than in cities, and city property values have declined less and in some cases even increased during the recession. Central cities and inner-ring suburbs are experiencing a building boom, and urban schools are seeing greater enrollment. At the same time, suburban locations have seen a drop in their share of building permits being granted. Surveys show that the majority of people want offices and shops near their homes, don’t want greenfield development, want to redevelop old areas, want to live in communities where they can walk more and drive less, and want more public transportation. Only 25% of Americans want single-family homes on large lots (bigger than 1/6 acre). Benfield argues, as many have, that a large part of this is due to demographic shifts. We are no longer a nation of traditional families. People are having fewer children, they are taking longer to have them (if they do), and they are living longer after they leave the house than previous generations. People without children care less about big backyards and privacy than they do about having things to do and opportunities that don’t require a car. We need to plan for singles and non-nuclear families as well as traditional ones.
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