Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do Women Control the Future of the Housing Market?

Yesterday, Nation’s Building News emphasized the impact of Generation Y – and young women in particular – on creating future consumer demand for multifamily housing and apartments. The author offers several reasons why multifamily housing developers should focus on young women, including growth in the 22-30 age bracket; sluggish rises in income among younger households, which makes them more likely to rent; rising education and income levels of women compared to young men; and the fact that women often look for different home and community features than men.

While all of this may be true, the article ignores some hard demographic truths. According to the Census Bureau, the number of individuals over the age of 65 in 2010 (40.2 million) is roughly the same as the number in their twenties (43.2 million). But the population over 65 is projected to grow by 120% by 2050, compared to 30% for those in their twenties. Although many older adults today own their homes and thus may get less attention when it comes to multifamily and apartments, their sheer increase in number suggests that millions more will be renting, out of preference or necessity, in the near future.

The housing sector should respond to the needs of the entire population, and this includes the growing number of low- and moderate-income older adults who need affordable, accessible housing. As we all know, the needs and preferences of older adults can be drastically different from those of a recent college grad or a young couple starting a family. If the housing sector continues to focus solely on younger households entering the housing market, when will it build for our demographic future?

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