Region Forward Blog

Housing Preferences Shift in U.S.

Aug 24, 2011
Region Forward


Housing in America is undergoing a transformation. Lifestyle priorities and a renewed interest in urban walkable areas are making sprawling far-flung homes less attractive. Economic forces are also contributing to changing housing preferences.

As regional blogger Dan Reed noted last week over at Greater Greater Washington studies indicate that today’s home buyers are more interested in transit accessibility and neighborhood walkability than the square footage of a potential home. Furthermore despite metro Washington’s relatively good level of transit coverage the demand for walkable transit-oriented housing far outstrips supply.

Rising fuel costs and increased traffic congestion are making “drive-till-you-qualify” housing much less attractive than it appeared during the boom years when the price of oil was low and housing values appeared to be on a never-ending upward trajectory. Increasing awareness of the environmental and climate impacts of sprawl is also contributing to a new “culture of urbanism.”

The impact of these changing preferences can be seen locally. Housing values in the District the region’s urban center have maintained or increased despite a massive nationwide housing bust a clear indicator of robust demand. Likewise suburban areas across the region are reinventing themselves by focusing development around current or future transit stations (such as the Purple and Silver lines) wisely catering to a growing population that increasingly wants to be able to live their daily life without having to drive for every task. Perhaps this new societal affinity for density is just a blip on the radar though it may also be representative of slightly more deep-rooted preferences.

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