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Over the last decade, even prior to the Recession, we saw a massive change in preferences about where and how to live. The shift has been driven largely by Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997), who prefer cities and are willing, if not eager, to live in rental apartments.
Demographer Arthur C. Nelson at the University of Utah has closely monitored the changing behavior and housing preferences of both Millennials and Baby Boomers. In his 2013 book, Reshaping Metropolitan America, Nelson noted a distinct bent within those groups towards walkable urban neighborhoods with homes located close to shops, services and entertainment. Looking at similar data through the lens of economics, Christopher Leinberger with the Brookings Institute has come to essentially the same conclusion: When it comes to housing, Millennials want something different. Something that better suits the times.
The Millennial cohort exists in a world of widely scattered and ever-changing job opportunities. In response, Millennials opt for more compact and mobile lifestyles than their parents’ or grandparents’ generations. Rather than entertaining at home, they socialize on streets, in cafes and coffee houses. They value the kinds of density, diversity and sociability more common in the inner, older parts of cities. They’d rather walk, bike or take public transit than drive. Finally, the student loan debt for many college graduates makes it almost impossible to scrape together a down payment on a home. […]