What happens after the baby boomers? Take Two

I asked this question last year. Prompted by Lonnie’s comment on Cvillenews:

… I’d love to see someone start asking what will happen to our area when all these retired Baby-boomers either die or can’t maintain these large homes as they age? Even Nationally, that could precipitate a second disastrous crash of the housing market that I don’t know if anyone is considering just yet.

With a few edits here and there, this is what I wrote in May of last year –

What happens after the Baby Boomers? There is an awful lot of discussion about the impending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation and the impact that they are and will continue to have on the real estate market. I noted it here a little while ago. The CharlAlbemarle area has very little housing that is suitable (which I define as primarily as single-level living, Universal Design conveniently located near efficient public transport) for the 55+ crowd. One of the only single-family developments (condos excluded) designed for retiring baby boomers is at least 20 minutes north of the City – with no public transportation at all.

All housing has a life-cycle. Look at the older, tree-lined streets in the City of Charlottesville and the urban ring within surrounding Albemarle County . Many of these neighborhoods are experiencing turnover for the first time in at least thirty years. While the houses may not suit today’s lifestyles – open floorplans and kitchens, master suites, at least 2300 finished square feet – they have that other major criterion – Location.

What will the landscape look like in thirty or forty years when these now new developments (I am reluctant to call some of these new incarnations “neighborhoods” just yet) start to experience their own turnover? Who will buy these houses?

The current trend for Gens X and Y is toward smaller, smarter spaces rather than large, sprawling McMansions plopped into a field somewhere. This seems to me to be two incompatible trends poised to collide at some point.

So – what do we do to prepare for the next fifty years?

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9 Comments

  1. Lonnie November 5, 2007 at 17:31

    I suppose I stand corrected! Someone is asking this question!

    Thanks for the quote!

  2. Jim Duncan November 5, 2007 at 17:53

    Thanks for the prod. Now – what about solutions?

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  4. Boston Condos November 6, 2007 at 12:29

    GEN Y is up….and will be just as big with more acceleration!

  5. Lonnie November 6, 2007 at 15:05

    Uh, Boston Condos, Gen X’er says to Gen Y… all I can say is “I hope not!” Hopefully, the next generation will learn something from the excesses of the Boomers and demand more intellegent planning and communities that are genuine neighborhoods. From what I’ve seen in Charlottesville some of that is taking place, and it gives me hope.

    As to what can we do about it, I’d say to some degree the damage is already done. We just should just try not to make it any worse by putting more of our investment into McMansions. Once those things are out there, I’m not sure anything but the market can bring things back into balance. I think this whole forclosure situation is already one part of that. Alot of people bought more house than they could afford, and now they are paying for that. I can only hope that as this places age that at least the acres of mown fescue will gradually be replaced by landscapes more typical of the rural area, if the homes themselves are absurdly out of place. It may end up kind of like driving through the south and seeing the decaying old plantation homes…

  6. Bryan November 8, 2007 at 21:08

    As a fellow Gen Y looking at how our community is developing in the Fburg area I see several things happening… 1. My friends ask me why the heck I live down there when everyone else is living in the city (a by product of being young I guess) 2. my friends that I went to college with are coming home and living with their parents here in VA for a few months then taking jobs where the cost of living is cheaper (Houston, NC, etc). I myself wouldn’t be living here in this area if I didn’t have help from my parents – it costs too much. We have over priced (even in today’s falling market) our younger audience out of this area. So my challenge is what next generation is going to be around to buy these houses? I agree with Jim that all areas will be looking at Smaller and Smarter planning – we have already seen two “strip” shopping centers start the process of turning into “towne centers” with heavy mixed use planning and incorporations of affordable housing options with heavy attention to the much needed task force housing in our area. Maybe then my teacher friends can stop renting people’s basements and buy something they can call home….

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