Imagine if people stopped wanting to own a home.
Ownership has been a central part of the American Dream and a driver and shaper of our nation’s history. We see clearly that today’s younger adults are having a hard time achieving that dream. Data in this report shows that at least they’re still dreaming — for now. But what if that aspiration went away? What if ownership stayed out of reach just long enough to turn a generation from wanting and believing its members can own, to assuming ownership is forever out of reach? How would that impact our nation’s economy, construction, transportation, workforce trends, insurance, home goods, entertainment, mobility and technology?
How would it impact your industry?
What the Future is a question we need to ask. Because the future doesn’t care if we’re thinking about it. The future doesn’t care if we project correctly. The future is coming regardless.
The changing nature of ownership is just one big question that comes to mind when we think about What the Future holds for housing.
It’s shaped by mega-trends that are impacting all industries. The trends we’ll talk about in this report will no doubt shape the future, but how exactly remains to be seen.
- Aging of our population: In 1990 fewer than one in nine Americans was a senior citizen. By 2030 it’ll be one in five. By 2060, one in four. As our nation ages, people are doing so with an increased independence. They’re staying in the workforce longer, and nearly 85% of those 55 and older want to age in place.
- Integration of tech into the home: Broadband is now available in nearly every corner of the U.S. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that there are more mobile devices than people. Google, Apple, Amazon and others are vying to be the center of a smart home. Homes are more connected to the outside world, and we are more connected to our homes.
- Urbanization: The push and pull between urban cores and their suburbs continues but there’s no denying that more Americans live in urban areas than ever before. Half of the population is concentrated in fewer than 150 counties. That plays into how we live, how we think and how we shop.
- Changing households: Our homes are impacted by—and perhaps also impact—who lives in them. Only one in five households headed by someone under 35 is a married couple family, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. We are having fewer children, and having them later in life. And we’re living longer, sometimes with an empty nest and sometimes with a nest filled with boomerang kids and even their kids.
- Rising inequality: Wealth and jobs are increasingly concentrated. You’ve seen the stats: The top 1% now control 38% of the nation’s wealth. That means most Americans lack choices and flexibility in where they live and how they spend.
- Mobility and migration: Americans don’t move much. The mobility rate has dropped nearly in half since 1980. Now only one in 10 moves in a given year, and only a small percentage of those move to a new state. Those who do cross state lines tend to be the most educated, meaning those starting with less are less willing or able to make a move that could improve their situation.
In science fiction, the future of housing often is pictured as towering, dense development with access, via flying cars, on multiple levels, not an antiquated “street.” The future has us living in smaller spaces, and spaces with a fluid design where rooms take on many shapes and serve many purposes. It’s something you see in hotels now, where the public space has become a priority. It’s a future IKEA is already picturing in the home.
Perhaps, if achieving ownership continues to be a challenge, housing becomes a public good. Maybe our future then becomes somewhat like the present in Singapore, where 90% of the population owns, but in governmentally held enclaves of high-rise flats.
No one has all the answers yet, of course. But it’s time to ask the big questions that lead to the big answers and allow you and your organization to make the bold moves that position you for what’s next.
It’s time to ask, What the Future.