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Peak Millennial or a City for All?

peak millenial

There is peak oil, peak car and now, peak millennial?  According to an article by Shane Ferro and Andy Kiersz at Business Insider there is becoming such a thing.  Ferro and Kiersz used data from Jed Kolko at Trulia based on where people said they wanted to live.  It should come as no suprise but we will run out of young professionals to recruit to our cities and will need to work on retaining residents if our urban communities are to be sustainable. 

According to Trulia's survey, urban dwellers were more likely to say they wanted to live elsewhere in 5 years than residents of suburban or rural communities.  The article suggests that these young professional dwellers may have the desire to leave cities as they age, marry and potentially have children, a path that we have been well aware of for years.  What we don't know from this survey is why such a large percentage wish to be elsewhere in the next few years.  If it is related to family and household formation were their answeres based upon societal expectations and pressures for families to suburbanize, or related to their city not meeting the needs of all of its residents?

Even if many millennials choose not to have children or get married their living preferences will mature and change.  Micro-housing units will not satisfy their needs, or the growing number of multi-generational households, and those that work from home.  As they age households will need more space.  That does not equate to a single-family McMansion, but it will require housing that is more flexible than what we are rushing to build today.  The same applies to amenities and the places we create.  The current generation of urban dwellers may love an unlimited supply of bars now, but they will demand more from their community as they age.  Better parks, improved streetscapes, and cultural and educational facilities supportive of a changing population.

If millennials are planning on leaving the city in the coming decade cities will need to anticipate and provide the services that meet their changing needs, particularly as they form families, to prevent their departure.  This is something cities need to begin addressing now.  Solving housing issues and education will potentially take several years.  It will be too late if cities wait until families begin to leave or until they see more children being born.  As we reported this week many cities are already seeing growth in their most walkable communities but many of these cities are behind the curve in providing housing options, education, and recreation opportunities.   Cities like Minneapolis get it.  They are reopening a school to serve Downtown and a high school is in consideration.  Seattle is beginning to see that many families don't want to leave and is considering a Downtown elementary.  Will other cities follow?

The responsibility is now on our cities.  If peak millennial holds true there will be less and less young professionals to replace those that leave., leaving behind a glut of one bedroom and micro housing units.  If cities choose not to address the needs and demands of changing households they make a gamble that the future children of today's young professionals will return to the city.  Rather, cities can create opportunities for a generational succession of city dwellers and supporters, but only if they realize that today's young professionals will look much different in the coming years.

Photo Credit: Millenials and the City/shutterstock