How Urban Housing May Change Over Time
The current urban housing landscape is changing. However, such changes are nothing new. Urban neighborhoods experience constant demographic shifts, new constructions, and changes to infrastructure and zoning laws.
Metro areas continue to grow, though most cities are losing residents to the suburbs, just as they have for the past few decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the suburban trend as more people shifted to working remotely, so their location became less important.
Technology will play a role in how urban areas look in the near future, with smart homes helping to create more environmentally friendly smart cities with less pollution and more efficient transportation systems and services.
Even with these constant changes, some common urban issues persist. For example, there continues to be a lack of affordable housing in urban areas. This trend does not appear to be changing anytime soon.
Here is a closer look at how urban housing may change (or stay the same) in the future.
Sustainable Building and Design
Sustainable construction and design involve the development of buildings with a low environmental impact. Some cities and property owners are pushing for greener design because it helps with common urban issues like poor air quality and reduces waste.
Municipal, state, and federal governments sometimes offer incentives for green construction or eco-friendly add-ons. These perks often come in the form of tax credits. Furthermore, some companies draw attention to environmentally friendly practices by earning sustainable building certification for their headquarters or other commercial constructions.
Besides tax credits or brand image, here are some other advantages for building a sustainable city.
- Pollution reduction: Sustainable buildings often rely on the use of clean and renewable energy, such as solar power. This helps to minimize the overall carbon footprint of the construction industry.
- Healthier air: Green constructions also utilize eco-friendly materials, which create cleaner air inside buildings. Non-toxic paints and wood, for example, improve indoor air quality. Increased energy efficiency and reliance on non-carbon-producing power also improve exterior air quality.
- Cost reduction: In the long term, renewable energy is cheaper for property owners, and for local utility companies, who can benefit from a reduced strain on the electrical power grid. Meanwhile, efficient constructions require less energy to heat and cool.
Efficiency can also help if energy costs rise in the future.
Future-proofing involves anticipating challenges and building solutions into current structures. For example, climate change is bringing stronger storms to some regions. A future-proofed home would have storm-proof components, such as shatter-resistant windows or hurricane roof straps.
Furthermore, homeowners can install solar panels and increase efficiency by adding insulation and upgrading to efficient appliances. These improvements would protect against future energy price spikes or unreliable grid connections.
Cities can future-proof on a larger scale by taking steps such as improving natural disaster readiness with improved drainage or flood prevention features. They could also make plans to avoid overcrowding by leaving open spaces within the city to leave room for expansion if needed. This approach is especially important because experts estimate that 75% of the world’s population will live in cities within the next 40 years.
Smart homes and smart cities are another key trend in urban housing. Smart homes are houses with automated systems that adjust based on user input or data from sensors.
These systems can regulate HVAC usage, lighting, security, and appliances. The components usually connect to a central hub with internet service. This connection allows the homeowner to control everything remotely via a smartphone app.
Smart home features may prove useful in a city environment, where security can be a crucial issue. Home insurance companies may even lower premium costs for people with a specific type of connected security system, which can provide early warning if there is an intrusion. These hubs can also work with fire detection and suppression systems in the home to lower the danger from fires.
Smart homes can maximize efficiency by automatically adjusting temperature and lighting features as needed. Some can even close window blinds to limit solar gain during the summer. This lowers energy costs and environmental impact.
Hybrid neighborhoods are areas within a city containing both residential and commercial buildings. The community could include both homes and office space. In addition, a hybrid area is zoned for retail, restaurants, and other commercial buildings.
The advantage for residents is that they can work and live in the same area. This setup brings more convenience to residents and also helps with issues such as traffic and the pollution it causes. People can commute on foot or via public transit, so they can rely less on cars.
These neighborhoods are attractive because of their convenience. However, the switch to remote work due to COVID-19 lowered the number of people who commuted to offices. More people were able to remain at home, meaning that convenient access to the office was not as valuable.
There are a few drawbacks to hybrid neighborhoods. First of all, it might be harder to detect criminal activity due to the increased activity in such districts. If burglary rates are higher than in a residential-only area, it can impact home insurance costs. There are ways to negate this, such as improving your security system and upgrading locks. You can make these changes before getting an insurance quote so that you can take advantage of any discounts offered for security improvements.
Blockchain Real Estate and iBuyers
Blockchain technology can help with real estate development activities and transactions. For example, blockchain platforms allow developers and property owners to tokenize their assets. Then they’re able to complete transactions — such as investment in a development project — conveniently online. Depending on the details of the project, the general public can use tokens as a way to invest in urban development projects.
iBuyers, which is short for “instant buyers,” are real estate companies that use technology to quickly assess, buy, and sell properties. They use algorithms and data to quickly ascertain the value of a property. They then make offers quickly. This option is ideal for urban home sellers and buyers because it helps them avoid the hassle of listing a home, hosting open houses, and staging the house for sale. Without the traditional fees associated with the listing, hiring an agent, and showing the home, the buying and selling process can be cheaper.
These technologies make developing, buying, and selling easier. Furthermore, with trends like tokenization, people can invest in developments in their community and earn profits when these structures succeed.
Urban Growth Rates Approaching Suburban Growth Rates
Overall, urban population growth rates are increasing at a rate similar to suburban rates in some cities. Growth rates vary by city, but overall, they are 3.4% for urban areas and 3.7% for suburban areas.
Suburbs generally have more area for new developments, while cities have a finite amount of space. If these growth trends continue, some cities may find themselves overcrowded or unable to accommodate all the people who want to live there. Solutions such as multi-unit buildings or commercial/residential developments can increase the number of people that a city can accommodate.
No Break for Affordability
Affordability is still likely to pose challenges in the urban housing market in the future. A Harvard study found that up to half of renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent. If demand is high, property owners may be unwilling to participate in affordable housing programs in their city. This cost burden impairs renters’ ability to meet other basic needs.
Temporary housing options can help people when they are between homes or unable to pay rent in their current home. Other options include co-living, where multiple people live together in one home and share the costs. Some homes can be renovated or partitioned to accommodate multiple families.
These solutions can help, but the compact nature of urban areas means that supply is finite and prices will always be high if demand increases.