Millennial Homebuyers Spurring Suburban Trends

Urban markets and multi-family, however, are still important despite interest in suburban areas

By Cassie Cherry

One thing we can all agree on these days: The silver lining for this year has most certainly been the residential housing sector. With low interest rates and “windfall savings” from the postponement / cancellation of many celebrations, travels, and life events there are even more opportunities to get into a home.

In Danielian Associates’ recent industry-wide survey, nearly 50% of millennials who identified as “currently renting” said they plan to purchase a home in the next two years despite the pandemic and economic uncertainty. Work from home has morphed into work-from-anywhere, which has effectively opened up additional housing options for those previously unable to relocate. Lesser densities, larger private outdoor spaces and lower priced for-sale housing opportunities, are very attractive to older, millennial homebuyers who are planning to start—or have started—their own families.

In Danielian Associates’ recent industry-wide survey, nearly 50% of millennials who identified as “currently renting” said they plan to purchase a home in the next two years despite the pandemic and economic uncertainty.

Over the summer, and in response to demand, we have seen rapid growth in the SFD housing product types that are stretching out into secondary and even tertiary markets. For those urban dwellers wishing to escape to suburban areas, the adage drive until you qualify is becoming a more attractive option now without the pressures of a long commute. Current vacancy rates in the San Francisco multi-family markets are probably the most aggressive example of the outward migration away from the urban core to suburban areas.

With that being said, the oldest segment of Gen Z is now in the early 20s. They are leaving college and entering the work force. While their generational cohort preferences are distinct and unique as a result of their own life experiences, they are not dissimilar from the previous generation of millennials in the preference for connected, walkable spaces and a desire to live in urban locations. Gen Z has now surpassed millennials as the largest generation, and they will be looking for places to live. Multi-family housing has traditionally been the entry point, so purely from a numbers perspective we need to keep building these products to keep up with growing populations and housing demand.

While the recent focus may have quickly shifted to single-family housing, multi-family housing is still an important piece of our housing puzzle and will not be going away. Many architectural resources have been spent on rethinking single-family home design in the post-pandemic world. We need to be sure we are also addressing post-pandemic design options within our multi-family product types as well. Health and wellness, flexible spaces, daylighting, entry context, safe package handling, indoor air quality and opportunities for indoor/outdoor living and private outdoor spaces are equally as important and perhaps more challenging to achieve within multi-family housing units. Additionally, we will need to rethink common area amenities – opting instead for multiple smaller, more intimate social gathering spaces instead of a single, larger one. The outdoors has become the new frontier for recreation, dining and social gathering spaces and planning and design for multi-family projects will need to reflect that.

Creative teamwork and collaboration by builders, planners, architects, interior designers and landscape architects can help achieve project goals while also ensuring these multi-family projects remain timeless while meeting today’s consumer preferences.

Cassie Cherry, LEED-AP, is the director of Marketing & Client Relations for Danielian Associates Architects + Planners. She may be reached at ccherry@danielian.com or at 949-474-6030.

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