Category Archives: millennials

Housing Mismatch

etsyDateline Boston:  Home sweet home is getting pricey at both ends of the age spectrum. Young adults and their aging parents are engaged in an escalating and increasingly expensive struggle for….an affordable place to live. The first wave of a housing-mismatch is taking place in Boston, Mass., in San Francisco, Ca., and other metropolitan areas that team with affluent and young tech workers. Boomers live further out, in homes that are too big and need to downsize. Millennials are choosing to live closer-in, and prefer residences that require less upkeep. Neither group (Millennials or Boomers) can find alternatives that are affordable, per Boston Globe writer Deidre Fernandez.

A housing study, completed at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, notes a housing market out-of-synch with its buyers. Millennials are finding it difficult to live where they work and play, and they are also strapped by high rents. It is difficult for them to save for future homes, since 1/3 of their income, sometimes more, is committed to paying the monthly rent.

The research study shows that between 2000 and 2010 Boston, Mass. (Suffolk County) experienced a 10.2% percentage- change growth in population ages 20 to 34, while the further-out suburbs experienced losses. Plymouth Mass., for example, had a 8.9% percentage change loss in younger residents. Over the same time period, average rentals went from an asking price of $1,462 in 2000 to $1,696 in 2010, and in 2014 they escalated to $1,957.

Meanwhile, lower income people are being pushed out further, presumably into the suburbs. Traditional triple-decker homes, a staple of Massachusetts domiciles, were once the province of working class families. Today, Millennials are choosing to live here, as these 3-plex homes are closer-in, near transit, and can accommodate several roommates.

So, the Millennials are moving towards the city- in this case Boston- while the population in the suburbs are getting older and poorer.

This is not promising news for Baby Boomers. If they have intended to unload their home in Massachusetts suburbs like Plymouth or Weymoth and move closer to the city, they will lack for affluent and eager buyers, Although their homes have appreciated, the appreciation may be less than they counted on for a comfortable retirement.

On the other hand, if they decide to age-in-place, their familiar neighborhood may take on a new character. The residents will likely be new immigrant groups, hourly workers who have migrated from the city, and other older people, like themselves. Over time, the tax base will erode- the one that has supported the good libraries, the quality public schools, and other public services. Unless the real estate values continue to appreciate and the fully employed move back, the tax base will not grow.

And, finally– there is the transportation. Always the transportation. With an older population that does not commute on a daily basis, public transportation, always a scarce resource, will be directed towards workers in other locales. Although the Boomers who age-in-place do not place a high priority on public transportation, there will be long drives to shop, to visit, and go to the doctor’s office. The suburban landscape has always been spread out, but it is become more so as malls close, and entertainment and shopping move to the Internet.

Boomers that age-in-place will continue to have their large homes, while a younger generation seeks something smaller, more connected, and most of all, closer-in. The Baby Boomers are a car-centric cohort that have built their lifestyles around automobiles. The Millennials, whether they live in Boston or San Francisco are Digital Natives, and are finding other ways to express their freedom, individuality, and (ahum) drive.

Aging and Driving

aging and transportation ...a new partner, the Smartphone
aging and transportation …a new partner, the Smartphone

Aging and driving will not go well for the Baby Boomers unless they are prepared to learn some new Smartphone lessons.

A recent study looks at how technology helps people get around a city without a car. It turns out that a Smartphone is the entry point. Would-be travelers can access services like real-time transit information, ride-hailing, virtual ticketing, multi-modal trip-planning apps, and bike-share…using their phones.

The travel report about Smartphones was written in 2012 and 2013 by the Frontier Group and the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)*. They rated 70 cities on the availability of technology-assisted transportation. Austin, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., were ranked as the top three cities. The rankings depended on two criteria: the number of transportation service providers and the number of services available.

This ranking may seem esoteric to those who are car-dependent, but services like Lyft and Uber, car sharing, and real-time bus information are literally “fueled” by technology and Smartphones. For users, they bring entirely new options and expand the availability of transportation choices.

The youngest generation, known as Digital Natives, turn to their phones first when they want to travel. In urban areas, Smartphones help them optimize the route and the travel mode. Meanwhile, they can continue to text or work once they start the trip, assuming they are not a solo driver.

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are slow to the game and still sitting, solo in their cars often fuming at the traffic. Boomers surely use Google maps to navigate or Nextbus, if they use transit, but few of them delve deeper into their transportation apps. The average Boomer household owns close to two cars, and has little need for alternatives. Yet.

Meanwhile, transportation providers that service older people, like Dial-A-Ride and medical vans, operate completely outside of the mobile app/Smartphone range. There is little attention to how these services can reach the suburbs. As the Frontier report notes, “(governments) .., have not begun to tap into areas beyond the major cities in which they have taken root, surmount economic and other barriers to the use of those alternatives, and explore the potential uses of Internet and mobile communications technologies in expanding access to high-quality public transportation in areas that currently do not have the population density to sustain such service.

Travel in the suburbs continues to reflect the infrastructure and investment of an earlier time before digital communications. The investment in roads and cars suited a country in which Detroit reigned, and one in eight jobs was in automotives. As technology moves forward, there are newer ways to expand our transportation network, without building new roads.

And these new ways will be ever-important (or Uber important), if Baby Boomers wish to age-in-place.

*News story:


Aging Boomers, At Home

80scarWhen the Baby Boomers were the same age as the average Millennial (mid- twenties to thirties) their desire to be homeowners propelled  the housing market. The lack of housing inventory,  a recession in the 1980’s, and  double-digit interest rates did not deter the Boomers from house buying. They bought homes in spite of these circumstances.

Today, it’s quite different. Although the U.S. population has  about the same numbers of Boomers (75.2 million) as Millenials (74.7 million) the Millennial stance on housing is remarkably different. First time buyers dropped to a low not seen since 1987…a point at which many Boomers had already opted into the housing market. (data: National Association of Realtors).

Furthermore, U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to 64.4 percent, the lowest in almost two decades. However, the rate among people age 65 or older is aroundt 80 percent.

There are a couple of things that could explain the differences between Boomers and Millenials.

(1) The obvious is the level of indebtness among Millenials, as they struggle to find jobs and pay off tuition loans. Boomers  were relatively debt-free as young people (but not as older ones).

(2) Less obvious are demographic changes. Millenials are staying single longer if they marry at all, and plan to have smaller families. Boomers were far more likely to marry and start a family, although about 50% of these marriages later failed. (Chapter One and Two, Aging in Suburbia).

(3) Even less obvious are the social changes. Home is no longer where you spend your weekends (think D.I.Y) and backyard barbecues. Homes need to “do less” and be less entertaining when our phones and Internet are new gateways.  (If this seems hard to grasp, read Chapter Seven, a stand-alone chapter) in Aging in Suburbia .



Boomer vs. Millennial @Home

millennial homes

Where would this sweet young couple, a Millennial buyer, prefer to live? According to realtors interviewed by the SF Chronicle (6/22/14)- it would would not be in the homes of Baby Boomers. “When Baby Boomers looked for a home many dreamed of a white picket fence and asafecommunity to raise a family.” The Millennials? They dream of a home that is move in ready, no  fixers; low maintenance, no green grass; location, location- near public transportation , shops, and proximity to work. With the exception of proximity to work (assuming they retired), it is not clear that the CURRENT preferences of the aging Boomers are all that different.