Part of retirement planning is figuring out where you're going to live. Two housing experts writing in Washington Monthly this month call for a federal housing policy that emphasizes urban living and public transit.
Patrick Doherty, director of the Smart Strategy Initiative at the New America Foundation, and Christopher Leinberger, a professor at the University of Michigan, argue that neither baby boomers nor their children -- together comprising half the U.S. population -- want to live in suburbia.
In the article they write, "Demand for standard-issue suburban housing is going down, not up, a trend that was apparent even before the crash. In 2006, Arthur C. Nelson, now at the University of Utah, estimated in the Journal of the American Planning Association that there would be 22 million unwanted large-lot suburban homes by 2025."
Instead, the authors urge federal support for development of urban, walkable and transit-friendly neighborhoods. "All this rebuilding could spur millions of new construction jobs," they write.
Their report predicts that unless suburban neighborhoods are rebuilt to better suit the way potential residents want to live, there will be decay and abandonment.
I'm not seeing much evidence of their theory here in my suburban Detroit neighborhood. The housing meltdown has had surprisingly little effect where I live. When the government was handing out money last spring to encourage home sales, there was a flurry of buying and selling at prices that were about equal to what homes were selling for here 10 years ago. The buyers were mostly young couples with children who saw this as an opportunity to own a comfortable home in a good school district at a reasonable price.
Many of the residents of this neighborhood are boomers who raised their children here and who have decided that this is home for the long haul. Some have changed their retirement living plans because their savings took a hit. A couple down the block had hoped to build a home on Lake Huron, but now have decided to stay; and the couple on the corner had considered moving to Florida, but now plan to continue to live here, but rent a winter getaway someplace warm for a couple of months each year.
To me, this doesn't sound much like the Washington Monthly scenario, but you never can tell. Things do change.
I think the guy who lives a couple of streets over from me has a better theory. When I was walking the dog the other day, I saw him outside supervising the repaving of his driveway. He said he was getting the house ready for his retirement. "After I retire, I don't intend to have time to do these things," he said.