It may not feel like it, but the economy is slowly recovering, and with it Americans are once again on the move.
We already knew the suburbs were getting grayer as the olds stick around instead of packing up for retirement homes. Now, new Census data shows that young singles 25-29 make up the bulk of this new migratory class, leaving their homes for “urban, high-tech meccas” across the country where they will live in little boxes all stacked up on top of each other instead of on the hillside.
Out are the super-sized McMansions in far-flung suburbs and in the sprawling Southwest, which helped drive rapid metro area growth in the early to middle part of the last decade in places such as Phoenix; Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; and Atlanta. In are new, 300 square-foot “micro” apartments under consideration for wider development in dense cities such as New York, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle, which are seeking to attract young single adults who value affordable spaces in prime locations to call their own.
“Footloose young singles are forming the leading edge of the coming migration wave,” said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who reviewed the numbers.
But fancy-free they are not! The youngs are moving to some of the country’s priciest urban centers in terms of rent, but still finding them the most affordable because of lighter transportation costs. (This is especially true of the No. 1 most expensive/least expensive city with the top number of young migrants: Washington, D.C.)
Oh, and those microapartments are about the size of two prison cells — you know, the kind with renewable bamboo flooring. (San Francisco will be voting on their legality in a few weeks.)
This is all good news for urban density (more demand, more supply) and the increase in public and cycling transit that tends to follow. From the Atlantic Cities:
Starting in the 1950s, we fell in love with spread-out living and with automobiles in a way that other countries didn’t, at least not to the same degree. (Even Canadians and Australians don’t drive as much as we do.) We soon simply (and wrongly) assumed that everyone could and should drive to do most anything, and built our suburbs accordingly, guaranteeing that the trend would perpetuate.
Slowly but surely, the trend is now beginning to reverse as the hot markets are in downtowns and walkable neighborhoods, with the ones having good transit service commanding the highest premiums on a per-square-foot basis. But we have a long, long way to go.
Oh, indeed. But at least now we’re moving.