Aging suburbs might change suburban priorities

The demographic shift in America due to the aging of the Baby Boomers could also affect American suburbs:

Although the entire United States is graying, the 2010 Census showed how much faster the suburbs are growing older when compared with the cities. Thanks largely to the baby-boom generation, four in 10 suburban residents are 45 or older, up from 34 percent just a decade ago. Thirty-five percent of city residents are in that age group, an increase from 31 percent in the last census…

“When people think of suburban voters, it’s going to be different than it was years ago,” Frey said. “They used to be people worried about schools and kids. Now they’re more concerned about their own well-being.”

The nation’s baby boomers — 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964 — were the first generation to grow up in suburbia, and the suburbs is where many chose to rear their own children. Now, as the oldest boomers turn 65, demographers and local planners predict that most of them will not move to retirement areas such as Florida and Arizona. They will stay put…

Local governments are starting to grapple with the implications.

The article then goes on to detail the changes some suburbs have made, primarily in the areas of public safety and civic services. Frankly, I was expecting some bigger changes.

Here are a few predictions about how this might have play out. Some of this has already started.

1. Aging suburbanites will be less likely to favor new development that bring in a lot of children in the community. This comes up primarily as a property tax issue in many communities. With many seniors on more fixed incomes, how can they adjust to rising taxes? And if they are long past supporting school-age children, why should they have to pay more money to schools? While one could argue that more money leading to better schools helps everyone in the form of higher property values, this is still a high price to pay.

This could lead to a shift in many communities away from new homes or multi-family units to a more diversified tax base (more industrial and commercial properties) and developments friendly to seniors. A community like Naperville pursued some of these goals in the 1990s and 2000s: seeing the dwindling supply of open land, Naperville pursued some senior-living communities and more commercial and industrial uses to reduce the strain on the schools and help provide some housing that would enable seniors to stay in the community.

2. They will aim to keep their suburbs similar to way they were when they moved in. As the first generation who primarily grew up in suburbs, they will want to preserve their idyllic nature. How this works itself out in each community may differ but this could be an era of hyper-NIMBYism or at least hyper-vigilance to make sure such uses benefit from the older citizens.


One thought on “Aging suburbs might change suburban priorities

  1. Pingback: Why Americans love suburbs #2: family life and children | Legally Sociable

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