30 June 2014

Is it a trend, innovation, or fad?

Bloomberg reports that the fastest growing area in the US has no kids or crime. The place they are talking about is The Villages in Florida near Ocala.

This isn't a new trend. In 2008, Andrew Blechman's Leisureville looked at the phenomena of retirement communities with a particularly close examination of The Villages. The NYTimes review of his book suggested that he had some less than kind words about the community-building interests of participants in this trend:

Blechman, the father of a young child, descends with a point of view. Retirement utopias, which first appeared in Arizona in the 1950s, are made possible by court decisions allowing segregation by age, where comparable segregation by race or religion would shock the conscience. Retirees like the Andersons leave towns that spend 55 percent of their budgets on the school system for subdivisions where the money goes to adult self-indulgence. As Blechman says, the resulting so-called life can’t “hide the fact that these communities are based on a selfish and fraudulent premise” and that Americans pay “the high societal price of this exclusionary lifestyle.”

But is this a just a fad? As the baby boomers start reaching their retirement years, they are discovering that it might be difficult to jump on this bandwagon. Last year Emily Badger wondered whether Boomers will be able to sell their houses and move to golfistans. She quotes Arthur C. Nelson who said that 77% of the demand for new construction of suburban single-family homes was driven by white baby boomers. But as they reach an age where driving is dangerous, mowing is a hassle, and where urban minorities are the new majority, the market might be different. She quotes him saying:
“My suspicion,” Nelson says, “is that many hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of those households in the 2020s to 2030 and beyond will simply give up the house and walk away.”
And now we are seeing that crushing student debt and a love for cities are reinforcing the trend with the Millenials delaying home ownership and trending towards living in downtowns and urban hubs where they live with friends and rent longer than the Boomers were expecting.

The next decade could be very interesting. Especially if there is another housing collapse looming in the distance.

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