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Uncertain Foundation of the Suburbs

The power of Sustainability Jenya Peterson

The Simple Story: People are starting to leave urban areas for the suburbs.

The first simple storyline: People are moving to the suburbs because of the pandemic. They are tired of being cooped up in smaller homes for extended periods of time, and some feel suburban living is safer.

The second simple storyline: Work from home (WFH) has created freedom for people to live anywhere, so they are leaving the suburbs where living spaces are bigger and cheaper.

According to data, the Real Story, suburban-to-urban migration is the more relevant and impactful trend when looking at the future of where people are moving.

By the Numbers: According to the UN, 55% of the world already lives in urban areas. More than 80% of people in higher-income countries are concentrating in the urban environment. Historically people move to urban areas to take advantage of more job opportunities and resources.

 Urban living is still about resources but with a new twist – a focus on the sustainability of resources, sustainability of internet connectivity to provide income, learning and health care, sustainability of relationships and communities, and sustainability of the planet’s ecosystem.

The Urban versus Suburban sustainability filters include:

  • Increased focus on Resources Sustainability: Traditional suburban living is not ecofriendly. Large yards require pesticides that eventually seep into water tables, and single-family homes consume more power to keep heat and air conditioning going to create a comfortable living environment. More house square footage means more supplies get consumed in building the home per person, and more resources are needed to furnish the home.
  • Increased focus on Community Sustainability: Millennials and Gen Z are very collaborative and invested in the local community’s upkeep and development. Mixed living buildings allow combining homes, offices, shopping, restaurants, and daycares in the immediate vicinity nourishing human connections and interaction with the neighbors. 
  • Increased focus on Walkability to empower live, work, play eco-friendly sustainability: Walkability supports communities that empower people, planet, and profits. Life in suburbia does not exist without access to a car. Urban living heavily relies on public transport combined with enjoyable and safe walking. Walkability is walkable access from your home to businesses and services.  Examples include:
    •  Businesses that take care of the daily essentials
    • Businesses that provide entertainment
    • Organizations that  provide medical care
  • Increased focus on Connectivity sustainability: The virtual world and the physical world will continue to merge. Remote or hybrid work requires people to have high-quality connectivity and increased bandwidth from home. Urban areas typically have a stronger infrastructure than suburban areas.
    • Virtual work, remote and hybrid, is thriving. 
    • Online learning will continue to be important in a knowledge economy.
    • Businesses will continue to take products and services online.
    • Healthcare and wellness will continue to be technology enabled to create better outcomes for patients.

The Bottom Line: While the suburbs will still be attractive to some, urban areas that have sustainable ecosystems will continue to attract more homebuyers.

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