At a conference I attended last week, one of the speakers, a colleague whose judgment and knowledge I respect, offered his take on the future of urban single family neighborhoods. The lower income families who have the credit and can get together the down payment to become homeowners are buying in the suburbs. People working in urban neighborhoods, he said, (more or less in these words), are going to have to “get over homeownership.” Putting aside his conclusion for a moment, the underlying facts tend to bear him out.
While homeownership has declined all over the country since the end of the housing bubble, it has dropped much faster in urban areas, not only distressed Rustbelt cities, but Sunbelt cities as well. Let’s look at a few numbers.
From 2007 to 2013, the number of homeowners in cities as varied as Phoenix, Chicago and Detroit has fallen by 10 percent or more (Figure 1 below). Within these cities, large areas have seen drops of more than 20 percent.