So Much for Baby Boomers Downsizing

Smart-growth planners justify their preoccupation with multifamily housing on the notion that, not only do Millennials prefer such housing, but as Baby Boomers become Empty Nesters, they too will prefer such housing. This is based on a logical fallacy:

  1. Most people in multifamily housing have no children
  2. When their children leave home, Baby Boomers will no longer have children
  3. Therefore, most Baby Boomers will prefer multifamily housing.

The reality, of course, is that even most Millennials live in suburbs, not dense inner cities–and even more aspire to eventually own their own home. So to presume that Baby Boomers will suddenly move to multifamily housing, out of possible nostalgia for their younger years, is absurd.

This is confirmed by a recent analysis of census data published by Fannie Mae. The share of Baby Boomers with children living at home declined from more than 24 percent in 2006 to 12 percent in 2012. Yet the share of Baby Boomers who live in single-family homes has fallen by just 0.3 percent from their peak, and remain today above the share before the financial crisis.

Jed Kalko, an economist at Trulia, has looked at the data in a little more detail. He notes that, not only do a high percentage of Baby Boomers still live in single-family homes, the only age class that has an even higher share in single-family housing is the 70-74-year class–i.e., the group just older than Baby Boomers. Americans don’t start moving out of their single-family homes until after age 75, and even the 85+ age class has a higher share still living in single-family homes than Millennials today. A lot of people in that age class are moving into assisted living, making them poor candidates for the transit-oriented developments that planners want to see built.

Most developers who build transit-oriented developments are probably fully aware of these trends. Those naive enough to believe planners’ unrealistic predictions will get burned once and then know better. The rest will demand subsidies to make up for the unmarketability of what the planners insist they build. Developers want to develop and builders want to build, and they don’t particularly care whether the profits they make result from the market or subsidies. But taxpayers should care, which is why they need to know that most of what smart-growth planners say about transit-oriented developments is pure fantasy.

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21 thoughts on “So Much for Baby Boomers Downsizing

  1. OFP2003

    I do know empty-nesters looking forward to moving into (and some are living in it now) rental housing. Thing is, I think they all own suburburban or rural second homes they intend to retire in. They see the yard-less, downsized, rental residence as a temporary measure to carry them until they retire. I also know people buying bigger homes further out after they become empty-nesters.

    I wonder how many planners out there have a perspective of giving property-owners freedom instead of taking away rights??

  2. JOHN1000

    Very interesting article provided by OFP2003.

    Good news to see builders going into less fancy DC neighborhoods.

    Bad news is that all this building is driven by the enormous, continuous growth of the federal government.

  3. sprawl

    My parents moved out of their home in their late 80′s from an over 50 area with lots of activities club house and a golf course. They now live in a retirement apartment, in the independent living part, as they need more services and enjoy the safety of commuting inside the building to the restaurant for meals or the workout area, swimming pool ,hair stylist and barber etc. All in the building.

    My mom still drives a few blocks to the store, but they also use the facility bus and call a cab when needed, for safe door to door service. When my kids, me and my sister or her kids, don’t drive them.

    I would not want them to use public transit at their age, for fear of them tripping or falling and getting hurt, as they used it.

    I had friend that fell as he stepped off a bus ,broke a hip and soon died.

  4. bennett

    If a person is elderly, frail, has cognitive issues (like dementia or Alzheimers) and is not fit to ride a regular fixed route service the transit agency doesn’t want them riding fixed route either. They would likely be eligible for curb to curb or door to door ADA paratransit (demand response) services. Vehicle operators go through extra sensitivity and operational training. This service requires scheduling a trip, usually 24hrs in advance so some cohorts would still need assistance.

    Public transit takes many forms.

  5. sprawl

    The other reason my parents do not ride the ADA bus is, who wants to schedule 24 hours ahead and who knows how long you want to stay or not, when you arrive there. My cousin did that at one of our family events, because she lost her legs by being diabetic and we waited with her for over a hour until she was picked up, because she was not going to another cousins home later.

  6. msetty

    I don’t see the big deal. I don’t recall anyone ever saying people didn’t like single family houses. The real issue is allowing for multiple units and other forms of housing where there is a need and a market.

    The trouble with the overall entire argument is that auto/sprawl apologists generally see zoning changes to allow forms of housing other than single family as social engineering and somehow a violation of the “free market” (but if you believe land use in this country operates as a true free market, I have A Big Red Bridge in San Francisco to sell you shares of; and the issue of subsidized housing aside as a separate discussion).

  7. English Major

    There was an interesting story in the Washington Post about how people are leaving the dense neighborhoods for the suburbs as they near thirty. Great remarks by an honest realtor about the sacrifices people are making to live in expensive apartments. The article is a fun read and I think it supports Mr. O’Toole’s arguments that the desire for density has been grossly exaggerated,

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/millennials-consider-leaving-washington-as-the-city-becomes-more-costly/2014/06/16/825e4308-eb67-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html

  8. Dan

    There was an interesting story in the Washington Post about how people are leaving the dense neighborhoods for the suburbs as they near thirty.

    And there was an interesting article in the NYT not long before the WaPo article that described people near thirty with kids looking for denser, more walkable neighborhoods than LI suburbs, but not as dense as Manhattan. Great remarks by residents. It doesn’t support Mr. O’Toole’s arguments that the desire for density has been grossly exaggerated,

    DS

  9. metrosucks

    See, planners like to paint themselves as wise old sages who are level-headed and can make reasoned decisions about the future.

    However, reality shows that they are petulant little losers who can only cry, whine, and engage in snark/sarcasm whenever anyone opposes their pathetic plans that always fail.

    The same people who live high on the hog off your tax dollars like to laugh at you and mock your lifestyle while they vigorously plan tyrannical changeovers for your home, commute, and your recreation.

  10. Dan

    that they are petulant little losers who can only cry, whine, and engage in snark/sarcasm whenever anyone opposes their pathetic plans that always fail.

    I just changed a few words from English Major’s comment. If you needed to make yourself feel better by hurling invective at the totem or The Other, you may want to apologize to him. Jus’ sayin’.

    DS

  11. Tombdragon

    Sorry Dan, but metrosucks assertion that, “they (planners) are petulant little losers who can only cry, whine, and engage in snark/sarcasm whenever anyone opposes their pathetic plans that always fail”, has proven to be FACT in Portland.

    Your assertion Dan that, “they are petulant little losers who can only cry, whine, and engage in snark/sarcasm whenever anyone opposes their pathetic plans that always fail” seems to be an example of the level of respect we get from planners after we point out that if their planning was totally off because our traffic congestion is out of control, and most all of the high density housing in the central core that was built is lacking tenets.

    Portland Oregon stand as an example of how the planning process has failed resident and taxpayers. The fact remains Dan that if you earned the median income or less and were forced to choose live in the subsidized high density housing built for you or live out in the suburbs – you would choose the better value of the suburbs, with the better schools, more affordable groceries, and better choices for shopping, and recreation.

  12. Tombdragon

    Read the article Dan, and at the end of it, the author went out of their way to say that the information presented was pure speculation and that it was by no means conclusive? The fact remains that the suburbs are growing at a faster rate than the downtown central core areas – families just don’t want to live close-in.

  13. metrosucks

    Tomdragon,

    Dan is a planner, so like most (all?) planners who support “smart” growth, you should expect him to lie, twist data to fit his preconceived notions, manipulate the public, and of course, live in a nice suburban home far away from any of the high density nirvana he promotes.

  14. English Major

    Thanks, Dan. These articles reach different conclusions, and both are
    limited to one area – yours discussed NYC, mine DC. I remain concerned that
    the nation is overbuilding small expensive units in “walkable” areas. Time will
    tell whether the young ‘uns will reject cars and houses.

    It’s a shame that walkability seems to come at a high price. If folks
    pay too much for rent they are not building wealth. I see anecdoctal
    evidence in Portland that people are compromising their future by
    making too many sacrifices to live in the groovy areas. They are forgoing gainful
    employment, retirement savings etc. because these things can be hard without
    a car and reasonably priced housing. And, I know some young’uns that
    are deliberately moving away from the city core for peace, quiet and
    a cheap house.

    But, as the articles show, anecdoctal evidence has it limits.

  15. Tombdragon

    Please English Major – say it – places like Portland Oregon, and their Urban Growth Boundary, have remove the “value” priced housing from the market, which keep young families from being able to begin to build wealth in their 20′s.

    Walkable? As a resident of east Portland, the planners are trying to impose it on us, with a “walkable”, “Business Center” in the Gateway area, regardless of the fact the area was developed without sidewalks over the last 75 years. We have cold Columbia Gorge winds in the winter, and hot Chinook winds in the summer, making the area “walkable” seems to be a futile attempt, illustrating lack of knowledge of the neighborhood. The “planners” have failed at planning to accommodate those who choose to live here, and are always chasing those whom they wish to move here, and don’t.

  16. Dan

    It’s a shame that walkability seems to come at a high price. If folks pay too much for rent they are not building wealth.

    EM, two things: re-sale of homes in such areas tends to jack up the price, as people are bidding up rents to obtain housing in such areas. New homes tend to be built with premium features to make more profit/sf of developed parcel, as the provision of parks and amenities means homes aren’t built there. One presumes that as infill proceeds and more walkable places are built-rebuilt the supply will approach demand and prices will eventually even out.

    Also, your implicit concern about typical Americans only able to build wealth with homes is spot-on, and why home prices continue to climb in most places across the country, pricing out more and more people. And Euclidean zoning imposed by those already in to keep out undesirables makes renting harder. That is: it should be easier to build wealth in this country.

    DS

  17. metrosucks

    And Euclidean zoning imposed by those already in to keep out undesirables makes renting harder

    Gee, let’s get rid of those urban growth boundaries that just protect politicians’ hobby farms and let people build a little further out from downtown. I swear, the worst that might happen would be some toxic grass seed farm would be reclaimed.

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