City vs. Suburbs

City vs. Suburbs August 15, 2013

Retiring baby-boomers are increasingly moving away from their houses in the suburbs to condos in the city.  This makes sense.  Single and just-married adults living in small apartments when just starting out, then moving to larger homes, more space, and better schools in the suburbs when their family grows.  Then, when the nest is empty, moving back to smaller, lower-maintenance apartments when they reach retirement age.  With both the young and the old liking a stimulating environment close at hand with less driving.

But this hasn’t happened all that much until lately, and it goes along with some interesting demographic changes.  Poverty is up 64% in suburbs, twice the rate as in cities.  And the crime rate is falling in cities and rising in the suburbs.

Why do you think that is?  What can be done to improve suburbs?  Or make cities habitable for families?  And where do small towns fit into all of this?

From Tara Bahrampour, via The kids gone, aging Baby Boomers opt for city life – The Washington Post:

Robert Solymossy doesn’t remember when he last gassed up his one remaining car. His other two cars are blissfully consigned to memory, along with his lawn, his driveway and “a lifetime’s worth of furniture” accumulated over the 23 years he lived in a detached single-family house in a wooded part of Oakton.

In 2005, Solymossy, now 67, and his wife Diana Sun Solymossy, 58, traded all that in to live in a condo in Clarendon with a gym, a rooftop pool and dozens of shops and restaurants right downstairs.

New census figures show the decline was offset by immigrants, but it will happen more as baby boomers age.

They bought it unbuilt, choosing from a floor plan. “It was a leap of faith, to say the least, but the location was really good,” Solymossy said. “After we moved in, I realized that this is really, really great; this really rocks.”

The Solymossys were front-runners of a mini-trend now taking root in some parts of the nation and particularly in the Washington metro area: baby boomers swapping out their single-family suburban homes for the bustle of urban life.

Reversing the trajectory of the Eisenhower generation, which fled cities for the suburbs, these boomers are following a path that younger people have embraced in droves. Many are empty nesters, and freed of the need to factor in school districts and yard sizes, they are gravitating to dense urban cores near restaurants, shops, movie theaters and Metro stations.

Between 2000 and 2010, more than a million baby boomers moved out of areas 40 to 80 miles from city centers and a similar number moved to within five miles of city centers, according to an analysis of 50 large cities by the online real estate brokerage Redfin.

While a 2010 AARP survey showed that 85 percent of people 50 to 64 prefer to stay in their current residences, the percentage decreases with income, a relevant detail in the Washington region where household income is double the national median. And those who move increasingly want to live where they can walk and bike to amenities.

“The millennials and the boomers are looking for the same thing,” said Amy Levner, manager of AARP’s Livable Communities.

Surveys of boomers’ preferences show that they are more interested in “smart growth” areas than in sprawl. And they are such a large generation that even if only a small percent of them embrace urban life, the effect could be dramatic, Levner said.


Browse Our Archives