Millennial invasion: Communities must meet the needs of latest generation of young professionals

The population of 22-year-olds is at an all-time high. what does this mean for communities in Michigan?

Generation Y or Millennials comprise the second largest demographic group in the nation and in Michigan. This demographic is generally associated with being born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the population of 22-year-olds peaked earlier in 2012. Survey research on this cohort tells us several important facts. According to RCLCO, a land use economics firm, 41 percent plan on renting for at least three years and 77 percent plan to live in an urban-type environment.

Gen Y is also willing to pay for this urban environment. According to housing market sales and rental data and survey research one-third will pay more to walk to shops, work and entertainment, and more than half would trade lot size for proximity to shopping or work. Two-thirds say that living in a walkable community is important and even among families with children one third is willing to make the tradeoff for a walkable diverse environment. Additional information on infill housing demand is discussed in the Michigan State University Extension article Infill housing can meet a back to the city demand.

So what does this mean for Michigan communities? Let’s go back to those 22-year-olds. If they rent for three years before entering the housing market, there will be more first-time buyers entering the market in the next five years than ever before. The 77 percent looking for housing in an urban environment is looking for urban downtowns, urban residential, mixed use suburbs or small towns with a mixed environment.

To capture this incoming wave of Millennials, communities need to provide the amenity mix Millennials are looking for. No community can provide all of these options but every community can improve its amenities by incorporating walkability and a mixture of uses in its neighborhoods. MSU Extension can provide training and assistance for communities looking to improve their appeal to this incoming wave. The Smart Growth Readiness Assessment tool provides baseline assessment and sample tools and techniques for improving walkability and mix of uses. Communities that prepare for the coming millennial invasion will be better prepared to take advantage of it.

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