Housing bust + Changing lifestyles = Boon for cities?

From the WSJ’s Cities Outpace Suburbs in Growth:

According to Census data released Thursday, in 27 of the nation’s 51 largest metropolitan areas, city centers grew faster than suburbs between July 2010 and July 2011. By contrast, from 2000 to 2010 only five metro areas saw their cores grow faster than the surrounding suburbs.

Viewed as a whole, U.S. suburbs have grown faster than city centers in every decade since the 1920s, when rising automobile ownership inspired Americans to begin fleeing cramped city quarters for leafy suburbs, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Urban population growth accelerated markedly at the end of the last decade, he added.

One reason for the shift back to urban areas may be improvements in quality-of-life factors, such as safety, that traditionally drove residents to the suburbs. In the past decade, cities have become considerably more livable. Crime rates have fallen in some urban centers; downtown areas that once were dotted with closed businesses now feature new cultural amenities such as museums and baseball stadiums.

From USA Today:

“In the 1960s and 1970s, economic downturns used to impact the central city more than its suburbs,” says Robert Lang, professor of urban affairs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “Now the reverse is true.”

Several forces are at play: fewer households with children, the high cost of energy and commuting and “a redefinition of lifestyle that places a premium on urban amenities,” Lang says.
Growth slowed the most in the Sun Belt, especially in areas hard hit by the housing bust and foreclosures, Frey says. They include places such as Henderson, Nev.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Fresno.
Larger cities such as Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and Washington, D.C., experienced a surge last year.

“Some of these areas are holding on to (people) who normally would have gone to the suburbs in a better housing market,” Frey says. “The question is whether this will continue when the suburban housing market improves.”

Lang thinks it will but that suburbs also will grow again — especially those that offer urban conveniences such as mass transit and housing within walking distance of jobs and services.

Some details from the U.S. Census:

Anything above 1 percent annual growth is solid. Annual population growth of 2 percent is pretty huge.

We’re certainly seeing investors betting on increased population within the Savannah city limits. Significant numbers of new apartments are on tap in the immediate downtown area at Drayton Tower, One West Victory, and the Talmadge Lofts.