Changing Times: How the Economy Affects Housing and Transportation


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Every morning when we wake up, we face a world that’s a little different from the day before. The recession has altered our living, employment and transportation patterns, and “adapt or die” is the new mantra. Some of the natural effects of a roller-coaster economy and rapidly changing needs of corporations are reflected in housing patterns and residential development. Gone are the days of sub-prime lending and spacious suburban homes. Let’s see where some of the U.S. markets are in relation to urban planning and housing patterns.

Rentals vs Homeownership: Many markets are seeing healthy residential activity post-recession, particularly in rental properties. Urban Land reports that the Denver market, for instance, is seeing long-term equity sources interested in funding apartment projects. They’re seeing a 10-year low in vacancies, an influx of Gen Y renters unable to sustain a mortgage and a drop in homeownership, creating a perfect storm of apartment-dwellers and less inventory to fulfill the demand.

High-Density Developments: Urban Land also noted that in dense urban areas like Los Angeles, developers are now creating smaller, higher-density units to meet the demands of Generation Y. Some of these new, more sustainable apartment complexes have about 200 units per acre and are being developed in larger public spaces, with high-quality amenities to compensate for smaller square footage. Units for Gen Y renters here are 500-700 square feet with airy, open layouts and trendy finishes, to remain appealing but cost-effective for those just entering the workforce.

dc metro

Development follows quality, available transportation, and high-density areas need to be accommodated by high-density transport. Here are some emerging trends as cities attempt to grow responsibly:

Managing Traffic Flow With Preventative Safety Measures: A growing population requires basic engineering improvements to calm traffic and prevent crashes. Safety measures are installed in sensible places and neighborhoods with high-pedestrian volumes, high crash locations, areas with high populations of senior citizens and along bus and truck routes. In addition to managing mass transit, individual transport can benefit from planning as well. Sidewalk extensions, speed bumps and bollards can all help to prevent injury and relieve traffic congestion in dense pedestrian-oriented cities.

Transportation Placement: Some cities control development by only approving commerce and dense apartment buildings within a short distance of its trains and subway stations. Conversely, they may also require that single-family homes and parks be further away from mass transit stations but closer to four-lane streets.

Transportation and Housing Growth: Across the U.S., multifamily housing has surged back to life, thanks to emerging infrastructure and transportation development. In Washington, D.C., expansion of the Metro system and new rail service in that area will connect new cities and suburbs to the downtown D.C. area, and just the promise of increased transportation has driven new development. Urban Land reported that the Metro expansion is estimated to generate growth for the next 20 years, and the county has already increased density allowances around proposed stations.

Claire Perkins has a background in print and digital publishing. She can often be found amid a cloud of Law & Order SVU and Cinnamon Dolce Lattes.

Images via FionaG999 and Garyisajoke