Americans Want Single-Family Homes

Mt. Laurel takes advantage of the area's gorgeous landscape and uses native materials in its architecture.

Street fairs in the Birmingham, Alabama, community of Mt. Laurel help to give the community character and a sense of place.
Street fairs in the Birmingham, Alabama, community of Mt. Laurel help to give the community character and a sense of place.

As the U.S. population grows, builders and policy-makers are faced with important questions—and the Best in American Living article, The Results Are In: Americans Want Single-Family Homes, takes a closer look.

Do we build more apartments and condominiums? Will Americans downsize or remain in smaller homes as incomes increase? Are these homes available in urban areas for affordable prices? Or will buyers compete for new and existing single-family homes, driving up costs if adequate supply isn’t available?

The answers might not be what you think, at least according to one study out of Portland, Oregon. Originally, the local government predicted its citizens would overwhelmingly want to live in the urban core in high-density, multifamily units.

However, the Urban Growth Report showed the opposite—that some 72% of Portland residents would actually prefer a single-family house, and 34% want that house to be in the suburbs.

Mt. Laurel takes advantage of the area's gorgeous landscape and uses native materials in its architecture.
Mt. Laurel takes advantage of the area’s gorgeous landscape and uses native materials in its architecture.

What’s driving these choices? Price of course, but also safety and proximity to work.

Other studies echo these results. In 2013 the National Association of Realtors’ Smart Growth Program released the latest version of its Community Preference survey. In it, 60% of respondents favored a neighborhood with a mix of houses and commerce within walking distance.

Meanwhile, the Urban Land Institute’s America in 2013 also found 2/3 of Americans say they live in single-family, detached homes and prefer to keep it that way.

And finally, NAHB’s What Home Buyers Really Want consumer survey found only 8% rated the central city as their preferred location. Additionally, 30% preferred a close-in suburb.

So what does this mean for residential construction?

For starters, planners, developers and builders should use these survey results to create a mix of densities that gives buyers what they want: housing choice, high-quality amenities and plenty of walkable communities with character, like Mt. Laurel in Birmingham, Alabama. Its blend of retail, single-family homes and outdoor recreation make it a great example of solid site planning.

Read the article for more insight into what drives buyer choices.

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