Mixed-use in Celebration, Florida © Opticos Design, Inc.

Demand: Market

Leveraging the needs of the market


Singles, childless couples, and empty nesters have two things in common: They are growing in number, and they want a unique type of home. Single-family homes located in conventional suburbs make up 90% of the current housing stock available in the United States, yet more and more, consumers are seeking non-single-family housing options that offer a walkable lifestyle.

This adds up to a 35 million unit shortage in multifamily housing across the country. So what is it consumers like about walkable communities? They offer a mix of single-family and multifamily housing types; shopping, cultural amenities, and jobs within walking distance; and good access to public transportation.


Young, highly educated, technology-driven members of the population desire mobile, walkable lifestyles.

77% of Millenials want a walkable lifestyle

Millenials, persons born between 1980 and 1999, make up 25% of the current population. Members of this age group are technologically savvy, highly mobile, and anxious to delay families while building their careers.

According to Gregg Logan, managing director of RCLCO, 77% of them want to live in an urban center: Millenials are willing to sacrifice less individual space in favor of more flexible working situations, stimulating mixed-use neighborhoods, and a variety of rental and for-sale housing.

There has also been a drop in car ownership among people under the age of 30. Areas that offer multimodal transportation systems are expected to attract an increasing number of households within this age bracket.

U.S. housing demand vs. available housing stock
90% of available housing in the U.S. is located in a conventional neighborhood of single-family homes, adding up to a 35 million unit housing shortage. Source: Dr. Arthur C. Nelson, “Missing Middle: Demand and Benefits,” Utah Land Use Institute conference, October 21, 2014.
Housing demand includes walkable neighborhoods
More and more, Americans are saying walkability is a key factor of where they choose to live. Source: Urban Land Institute. What’s Next at the Local Level, 2012.

And, while millennials are generally waiting longer to start families, Logan says 70% of them don’t plan to move to the suburbs once they have them, therefore demanding safe streets, cultural amenities geared for children, and good schools located in an urban context.

Baby Boomers

Housing demand for walkable living increasing among seniors.
Projected population grown of Americans age 65 and over by state between 2010 and 2020. Source: Brookings Institute, GETTING CURRENT, Recent Demographic Trends in Metropolitan America, 2009.

Americans are working and living longer, and they want to stay mobile and active in their later years.

The baby boomer generation represents almost 20% of the population—by 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older (Urban Land Institute, What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy, 2011). Unlike the previous generation, this growing population of retirees doesn’t want to live in traditional retirement communities.

Health and wellness are still top priorities, but so is access to transportation and connectivity. Americans are living longer and staying active longer, but they won’t drive forever and they don’t want to be dependent on their family members to get around.

Affluent seniors seek to downsize from their large suburban homes to more convenient, easy-to-care-for townhouses, apartments, or condos, while others need quality, affordable housing that won’t break their limited budget. Many retirees would like to move close to, but not live with, their children and grandchildren.

Diverse Households

Housing demand for multigenerational situations increasing.
The number of multigenerational households in the U.S. has been on the rise since 1940. Source: Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data, 1940-2000, and 2006, 2007, 2008 American Community Surveys, based on Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) samples.

A greater variety of household sizes and demographics require a greater variety of housing choices.

Multigenerational homes have increased by 17% since 1940, and that number continues to rise. The growing senior population, an increase in immigration, and an increased desire to live in intergenerational neighborhoods all contribute to the growing demand for multigenerational and even multifamily households.

In addition, multigenerational homes have increased by 17% since 1940, and that number continues to rise. The growing senior population, an increase in population that has cultural traditions that encourage multi-generational living, and an increased desire to live in intergenerational neighborhoods all contribute to the growing demand for multigenerational and even multifamily households.

A 2011 report from the Urban Land Institute showed that the percentage of working-age Americans is decreasing while the percentage of non-working dependents increasing, further stressing financial resources. To serve these consumers, we need more creative intergenerational and multifamily living situations.

Unsatisfied Suburbanites

More and more, consumers are choosing smaller homes within walking distance of entertainment, services, and work. Source: National Association of Realtors, National Community Preference Survey, October 2013.

A growing demand for a walkable lifestyle has the potential to transform sprawling suburbs into walkable communities.

A generation ago cities struggled to implement the revitalization of downtowns and urban neighborhoods. Now the urban redevelopment challenge has shifted to the suburbs where underutilized parking lots, abandoned strip malls, and foreclosures have created a plethora of opportunities for rethinking the development patterns to create new walkable communities as is discussed in Ellen Dunham Jones’s Retrofitting Suburbia.

The Urban Land Institute’s 2012 report What’s Next at the Local Level showed that there is a growing consumer demand to reshape many of America’s conventional suburbs into walkable, transit-oriented communities that provide a variety of housing choices.

There is an opportunity for creating more compact walkable suburban centers, reviving valuable park space, and updating infrastructure to provide more sustainable communities. Multi-unit housing is expected to concentrate and grow around mass transit stations and near suburban town centers that are transitioning single-use strips into mixed-use corridors.

So what do these groups want? Click here to find out!