Home > business and economics, climate change, environment, housing and real estate, social and cultural issues, Urban Land Institute > The New California Dream: How Demographic and Economic Trends May Shape the Housing Market: A Land Use Scenario for 2020 and 2035The New California Dream: How Demographic and Economic Trends May Shape the Housing Market: A Land Use Scenario for 2020 and 2035

The New California Dream: How Demographic and Economic Trends May Shape the Housing Market: A Land Use Scenario for 2020 and 2035The New California Dream: How Demographic and Economic Trends May Shape the Housing Market: A Land Use Scenario for 2020 and 2035

January 8, 2012
Source:  Urban Land Institute
In 2008, California passed Senate Bill (SB) 375, an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by redesigning the state’s urban growth patterns. The legislation specifically directs the state’s metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to devise strategies to reduce vehicle miles traveled—and hence GHGs—by better matching future housing development with public transit opportunities. As part of the process, the MPOs are required to devise targets for GHG reduction as well as to develop “sustainable communities strategies” that better coordinate land use and transportation decisions.
For a state more used to sprawling apart than growing together, it seems a tall order: how do we reverse years of a pattern in which more land is consumed, average commutes lengthen, and environmental damage rises? In this compelling new report, one of our country’s leading land use planners, Arthur C. Nelson, offers an important bit of news for those who worry that ambitious targets are unrealistic: the demographics are on our side.
While most of the national focus on our demographic future is on the rising diversity of our population—a fact well known here in California—Nelson points to two equally important changes: the aging of the population and the reduction in the share of households with children. Both mean that as California’s population grows over the next 40 years, it will see a rise in housing demand for smaller lots, multifamily units, and other land use configurations consistent with transit-oriented compact development.
The challenge is how we get there from here. Nelson tries to connect the dots by illustrating the shift in the composition of real estate demand and pointing to the opportunity of “recycling” nonresidential land, particularly those lands adjacent to transit systems. Although the specific projections that Nelson offers may be subject to debate, the overall vision is certainly not. We can grow smarter and grow greener, meeting the mandates of SB 375 by planning for the future rather than the past. rather than the past.
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