Just after the close of World War II, the last Great Migration in the United States — the move from the city to the new suburbs — began to emerge, fueled by new roads, low congestion, and modest energy costs. It was a new beginning, a chance to shake off the past, and it came complete with the promise of more privacy, more safety, greater proximity to nature, and easier financing.
Not surprisingly, Americans bought in.
After that, it didn’t take long for the preferred retailers to do likewise, abandoning the city and following their customers to the suburbs. The suburban single family home on a large lot became synonymous with the American Dream.
The future is here. And it’s for lease.
Even before the Great Recession, real estate market analysts Todd Zimmerman, Laurie Volk and Chris Nelson were patiently explaining the demography-is-destiny argument for an inevitable shift in American housing. It’s all about the numbers.
In 1992, Rage Against the Machine’s Zach De La Rocha offered a dire warning to a restless but aimless Generation X: “If we don’t take action now,” he sang, “we’ll settle for nothing later.” An anthemic rallying cry and yet, just ten years thereafter, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard was introducing those same listeners to “the sound of settling.”
While the idea of settling carries with it some pretty unsettling connotations, its execution is proving nothing of the sort. In short, the settling down of Generation X, whose youngest members are now turning 30, may very well prove to be a pivotal baby step towards the construction of a more resilient future.