Report: Millennials are Flocking to the Suburbs

Glissette Santana | @GlissetteSantan | June 5, 2017

Image via flickr/Elizabeth Haun

Increasingly armed with amenities like trendy restaurants, independent stores and craft beer bars, the Houston suburbs are quickly becoming a draw for millennials. The Urban Land Institute is reporting 10.8 percent growth in the millennial population in Houston’s suburbs between 2010 and 2015, according to its new research.

Affordable living, including a strong apartment market, are surefire ways to attract millennials, real estate developer Randall Lewis told Time Magazine.

The study also found that millennial population growth in Houston’s suburbs exceeds millennial population growth in Houston’s urban core, which grew 3.9 percent during the same time period.

Out of the 50 metro areas analyzed by the Urban Land Institute, only seven saw a drop in the number of millennials moving the suburbs. San Antonio saw the second largest increase of suburban millennials nationwide, with 14.4 percent growth.

Suburban growth drives population growth, according to the report. “From 2000 to 2015, suburban areas accounted for 91 percent of population growth and 84 percent of household growth in the top 50 metro area,” ULI wrote in its report.

So what’s going on? Aren’t millennials all about urban life?

“Between 1978 and 1990, there was a 32 percent increase in births, so now there are 32 percent more young adults in the city,” Dowell Myers, professor of demography and urban planning at the University of Southern California told Time, who has argued that the phenomenon of city-loving millennials is mostly a myth. “That upswing has led people to think that there’s a real change in taste, when there’s just a lot more young people born 25 years ago.”

Most millennials turned 25 in 2015, Myers said, meaning the demographics of millennials are changing. This, however, doesn’t mean that growth in city centers is declining. But in most metros places, including Houston, millennial population growth is happening more quickly in the suburbs than in urban centers.

The Kinder Houston Area Survey found that 50 percent of Houstonians would prefer to live in “a smaller home in a more urbanized area, within walking distance of shops and workplaces rather than in a single-family home with a big yard where you would need to drive almost everywhere you want to go.”

But Kinder Institute Founding Director Stephen Klineberg says “walkable” doesn’t always mean “downtown.”

“Developers are responding to these demands by building more transit-oriented walkable communities,” he wrote in his 2017 report, “not just in Houston’s Downtown but also in the urbanizing ‘town centers’ throughout this far-flung metropolis.”

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Glissette Santana

Glissette Santana is the web and social media editor for the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

One Comment

  1. I’m just one person speaking, but as a Gen-Xer who left the city for the suburbs ten years ago and who is now heading back to the city, I would say housing affordability and schools are going to be a determining factor for a lot of young families. When we decided to purchase our first home, we would have loved to have stayed in the city, but we just couldn’t afford it. Finding an affordable home zoned to a top-rated school was near impossible. So we decided on a nearby suburb south of city. We experienced the excitement of a new suburban home complete with a yard, but soon realized there were trade-offs. Our traffic-filled commutes were dreadful. There was lack of anything beyond big box stores and chain restaurants. Neighborhood trails never led anywhere outside the neighborhood. To get anywhere, you forced to use the car. These are things we never considered when we first purchased our home. Fast forward a decade later. We now have two young kids, and can now afford to buy in an area that’s more walkable, near great dining options and the burgeoning bike trail network, but I know most can’t afford $400k+, especially those just starting out. My thought is the city will continue to see increasing density, but unless more affordable housing options that appeal to families are offered, it be growth mostly comprised of the wealthy.

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