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Reason Foundation

Real Estate and Housing: Present and Future

Leonard Gilroy
January 6, 2005, 10:24pm

At the beginning of a new year, it's natural to reflect on where we are and where we're going, whether it be in our personal lives or in politics, society, etc. Accordingly, two recent articles give some perspective on the present and future of real estate and housing. In the first article, Realtor Magazine Online presents their list of the 25 hot trends in real estate. Some of the list focuses on profession-related trends in marketing and information technology, for example. But it also examines industry-wide trends in such areas as minority homeownership, modular homes, aging-in-place, and demand for office space. Another article by Chicago Tribune writer John Handley examines the future of housing in the context of the changing demographics of the U.S.: It would seem that there should be increasing opportunities for niche developers to target products towards the demographic groups mentioned in the article. Each group has its own unique needs and preferences for where and how they live. But it will also be interesting to see what effect (if any) the forces of demographic change will have on land use planning and regulation in the future. Is it possible that the momentum in the planning profession could start shifting away from the top-down, macro-scale focus embodied in regionalism and smart growth and become reoriented towards a more grassroots, community-scale type of planning aimed at meeting the needs of neighborhoods and unique demographic groups? I tend to doubt it, but stranger things have happened. More likely, I see a huge potential for planning and regulation to place (or perpetuate) impediments that stifle the ability of various demographic groups to find housing and neighborhoods that satisfy their preferences. For instance, could zoning and subdivision regulations make it difficult for the market to respond to the desire in the Hispanic community for homes with more rooms for extended family? Also, if the smart growth planning of today continues to reduce housing affordability, how will it impact different demographic groups in the future as they try to find housing? The questions are endless. Unless you have a crystal ball handy, stay tuned...

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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