November 25 2011

The Shifting American Dream: New Trends in Housing Demand in Ithaca, New York

Collegetown, a concentrated student area of Ithaca

Collegetown, a concentrated student area of Ithaca

It is becoming clear that young people and retirees favor a compact urban lifestyle to the sprawl of suburbia, as the cultural value of owning a large home and multiple cars erodes in our resource-strapped contemporary world.

On October 20, 2011 at Ithaca’s Downtown Housing Forum, the Danter Company, a real estate research firm, presented findings on a study of the downtown housing market commissioned by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. Their findings support a wider recent trend in American housing demand: the younger generations are abandoning the “American Dream” of owning a large-lot, single-family home, in favor of apartments and an urbanized, more connected lifestyle. This shift, which bodes well for sustainability, must be understood and internalized by urban planners, architects, urban designers, and developers.

Danter focused primarily on rental apartments, for which there is massive demand due largely to the presence of Cornell University and Ithaca College. There is less than 1% vacancy in Ithaca – comparable to New York City – which makes Ithaca’s housing market appear strong (up to 8% vacancy is a good market) but inflates monthly prices for renters. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is about $1,000, the highest of any comparably-sized student population area in the country.

The Commons in Downtown Ithaca

The Commons in Downtown Ithaca

Nonetheless, young people want to live close to their friends, school or work, and urban amenities. The study predicts that Ithaca’s market could accommodate 1,000 new rental units in the next five years. Danter asserts the decline in home values created by the recent housing crash is not likely to recover, making apartment rental even more appealing. In most American markets today, there are 1.8 home buyers for every seller, compared to four home buyers per seller in 2000. In 2020, there will be less than 1 buyer per seller.

An often-overlooked segment of the market are seniors. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age, and over the past decade there’s been a 10-15% national increase in senior apartment occupancy as retirees seek to downsize and participate in an engaging urban lifestyle.

Is there evidence of increasing urbanization in your community?

Credits: Images linked to source. Facts linked to source or provided by Ken Danter, principal of the Danter Company and real estate expert, at Ithaca’s Downtown Housing Forum.

Nina Coveney

Nina Coveney graduated from Cornell University in 2011 with a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies. When she began as a blogger with Global Site Plans, she worked for the Town of Ithaca, New York Planning Department. She then transitioned - in writing and real life - to New York City where she began working in the Events department of the Bryant Park Corporation. She hopes to eventually pursue a Master’s Degree in urban planning and design. A native of the New York City metro area, she blogged about trends in sustainability, housing, transportation, and adaptive reuse in both Ithaca and the Big Apple until April 2012.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 25th, 2011 at 8:17 pm and is filed under Architecture, Housing, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “The Shifting American Dream: New Trends in Housing Demand in Ithaca, New York”

  1. Alexandria Says:

    I agree, Detroit’s recent population influx of young entrepreneurs definitely speaks to this trend. When it comes to refurbishing the American Dream however, we have to look at what is going to convince the “family unit” to inhabit our cities and urban neighborhoods. Will the new residents (mid 20′s-late 30′s) stay once they start a family or will they look to the ‘burbs for space?

    Lots to think about! I enjoyed reading.

    Your GRID Co-Blogger,

  2. Nina Coveney Says:

    Alexandria, you make an interesting point!

    It definitely does boil down to where the “family unit” will decide to make their home and raise children. While this has traditionally been the suburbs for many, my thinking is that over the next decade, a confluence of factors (like rising fuel costs and greater environmental consciousness for example) will push new young families back toward the urban core.

  3. nancy meyer Says:

    Good article Nina. I would imagine this is true all over the country. See you soon

  4. Nina Coveney Says:

    Thank you, Nancy! I will definitely be interested to see what trends are reinforced or developed anew over the next several years and decades.

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