Builders constructing denser, more urban developments in the suburbs

USA Today reports that more builders are constructing denser suburban subdivisions:

The nation’s development patterns may be at a historic juncture as builders begin to reverse 60-year-old trends. They’re shifting from giant communities on wide-open “greenfields” to compact “infill” housing in already-developed urban settings…

“It’s the kids (ages 18 to 32), the empty nesters (Baby Boomers with no kids at home),” says Chris Leinberger, president of Smart Growth America’s LOCUS (Latin for “place”), a national coalition of real estate developers and investors who support urban developments that encourage walking over driving. “These two generations combined are more than half of the American population.”…

Most major builders have created “urban” divisions in the past five years to scout for available land in already-developed parts of cities and closer suburbs — even if it means former industrial and commercial sites or land that may require environmental cleanup…

Even traditional communities built on greenfields are transforming. In Southern California’s Inland Empire, an area where housing prices are lower and appeal to first-time buyers, Brookfield is building Edenglen in Ontario. The homes are built on smaller lots — 4,500 square feet instead of the more conventional 7,200 square feet — and priced from $200,000 to $300,000.

This phenomenon has been noted by a number of commentators in recent years though I wonder if it will last.

A few other consequences of this for suburbs:

1. How will existing suburban residents respond to dense, infill projects? I would guess that a good number of suburbanites would object to these dense projects being built near them, spoiling their neighborhoods.

2. Related to the first question about NIMBYism, how will these new developments change the character of existing suburbs? If a community is used to wide suburban streets and big lots, narrow lots and denser housing could change things.

3. This article hints at this but this could also be a product of the age of many American suburbs. Outside of the suburban fringe or exurbs, many suburbs not have at least a few decades of history and perhaps little to no open land (reaching build-out). If these suburbs want to continue to grow (boosting revenues and fees as well as prestige), infill development might be the only choice.

4. This article makes a common claim: certain generations (emerging adults and baby boomers) desire more urban kinds of housing. However, I wonder if it less about generational differences and more about the changing structure of American households. Is the increasing number of single households (which might be located more in these generations) really driving this? If so, this would be have bigger effects as the American suburbs have traditionally been communities build around family life and child-rearing.

2 Responses - Add Yours+

  1. [...] figures about how many Americans have actually made the choice to move (versus surveys that suggest Baby Boomers and Millennials desire denser homes). The case studies often look at smaller areas of a [...]

  2. [...] sociologist  argues that while there may be a lot of talk (and data) about adults seeking out denser communities, there is a countertrend of some adults moving to rural areas. Tolkkinen’s experience is [...]

Leave a Reply