What’s Driving the Surge in Multifamily Housing? Not Driving.

The Huntington Condos, a multifamily development in Hoboken, NJ. | Image: livingonthehudson.com

Millennials, the generation now in their 20s and early 30s, may be driving consumer and livability trends, but one thing they’re not driving is cars.  And while that’s undoubtedly changed the conversation nationally about transportation, it appears to also be having an impact on housing.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, construction of multifamily housing in the United States is two-thirds pre-recession rates, compared to only one-third for single-family home construction. In November, the rate of growth in apartment complexes was its fastest since July 2008.

What’s fueling this? The relative price advantage rental apartments have over single-family home ownership certainly helps, especially during a recession. The Long Island Index notes that not enough rental properties, coupled with expensive homes that price out young adults contribute to the significant loss of Long Island’s young adult population. Multifamily housing continues to boom in cities, where there are transportation options other than driving. More than three-quarters of Millennials are opting to live in urban areas, while the population of suburban areas is getting older. The median age of New York City’s suburbs jumped 5.2 years between 1990 and 2010. In the five boroughs, the median age only increased by 1.9 years thanks to an influx of 300,000 new residents ages 20 to 34 during the same period.

Housing cost, shifting preferences away from cars, and growing desire to live in walkable, transit-accessible downtown neighborhoods are key factors behind the resurgence of multifamily housing. Attracting residents who want to live without cars requires providing transportation options like public transit and streets that are safe and accommodating for walking and bicycling. The affordability of Hoboken and Jersey City is not the only reason both cities attract Millennials in droves; both cities are actively increasing their transportation options. Hoboken has become a leader in sustainable transportation with its Twenty is Plenty and Corner Cars programs, and Jersey City just announced last week that they’re adding 54 more miles of bike routes.

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