NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 20, 2010

A new Coldwell Banker survey of home purchases by singles turned up something surprising for city watchers: 52 percent chose suburbs over urban or rural areas. 

The survey reveals a couple of other interesting tidbits as well, says Samuel Staley, Director of Urban Growth and Land Use Policy at the Reason Foundation: 

  • Some 55 percent have less than a 30-minute commute to their office or work from home.
  • And 40 percent live less than 30 minutes or even in the same neighborhood as their parents or extended family.
  • In fact, an additional 12 percent live with at least one family member. 

Essentially, the survey is confirming the "Law of Constant Travel Time" where people tend to locate close to their jobs and home, says Staley.  They will move to accommodate a commuting trip of about 30 minutes.  This trend is fundamentally changing travel patterns and should be incorporated into regional transportation planning. 

What is motivating these suburban home purchases?  Perhaps forward thinking women, says Staley: 

  • Some 27 percent of single women said that the number of bedrooms was the most desirable feature in a home.
  • Only 18 percent of men did. 

Women may be thinking about space needs as their family grows, or their network of friends needing a safe place to stay, says Staley. 

Thus, suburbia is far from dead; it's alive and kicking.  Indeed, these results confirm that suburbs have become cities in and of themselves.  They have the social networks, mobility and increasingly even the densities to take on true urban functional characteristics (e.g., access to jobs and services) if not the built form of past cities (high density clusters of housing and businesses), says Staley. 

Source: Samuel Staley, "For Singles Suburbia Reigns," Reason Foundation, April 19, 2010. 

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