The primary opportunity for changing development patterns lies in the number of new housing units that will be constructed. Millions of new units will be required every year, both because the population is projected to grow (largely as a result of immigration) and because some housing units are torn down and replaced every year. Demographic and economic trends, particularly the retirement of the baby boom generation, the increasing importance of immigrants, and higher energy prices, could result in a larger share of these new units being built in more compact, mixed-use developments.

Demographic Trends

Aging of the Population

Aging of the baby boom generation over the next several decades will result in a historically unprecedented generational shift with profound implications for the housing market in the United States.1 By 2010, the leading edge of the boomers will pass the age of 65, and growth of the elderly population will substantially exceed that of younger adults (see Table 4-1). As they have in every decade since the 1970s, the boomers will dominate changes in the housing market until at least 2030 as they downsize and eventually withdraw entirely from home ownership. Because of the size of the boomer cohort, nearly every state will experience these trends (Pitkin and Myers 2008).

Two effects are of particular interest in this study. First, starting in about 2015, the boomers may begin to sell off their large supply of housing, primarily in low-density suburban areas, as they move to smaller units (Pitkin and Myers 2008). Second, new construction will likely cater to the demand of seniors for retirement housing, following


This section draws heavily on a paper by Pitkin and Myers (2008) commissioned for this study.

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