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Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Industry survey confirms developers shifting to smart growth

Kaid Benfield

Posted October 6, 2010

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In a survey of 1000 builders, developers and other industry professionals operating along the East Coast from Connecticut to Florida, sixty percent reported that, “to stay competitive, they are shifting away from bigger traditional home designs to conservative pedestrian-oriented mixed-use neighborhoods.”   Burbank, CA (by: citta-vita, creative commons license)In other words, smart growth has become the “conservative” investment.  The survey was sponsored by a group of real estate-related companies based in New Jersey, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania and covered a wide range of issues in an effort to determine how current economic conditions are affecting builders.

“The region’s economic future hinges on its ability to redevelop older cities and suburbs,” said the group in a press release.  Moreover, three times as many survey respondents believe that the multifamily residential market has the greatest potential for growth over the next year than believe that single-family development has the most potential (61 percent to 19 percent).  These findings are consistent with a range of market trends and indicators we have been tracking for some time (for example, here, here and here).  

Another question on the survey showed that 63 percent are re-evaluating the types of projects that they plan “from a product/layout/density standpoint,” Geneva, IL (by: Chris Phan, creative commons license)according to the press release.  “Builders have recognized that not every buyer wants a single-family detached home,” said William Becker, a marketing consultant who specializes in active lifestyle communities.  “Buyers like a neighborhood feel but also look for variety in their community, with different style homes.”

The survey polled real estate experts involved in the commercial, single-family, multifamily, and active adult markets in the Tri-State (CT-NY-NJ) and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as Pennsylvania and Florida.  The survey results were announced in late August, though they just came to my attention.

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Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.

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Steve DavisOct 6 2010 10:21 AM

The thing, is that this sentence has been true for the last decade, not just now during the recession:

“Builders have recognized that not every buyer wants a single-family detached home...”

Americans have always wanted a diverse housing stock, especially in cities and metro areas. People do still want detached single family homes. The good news is that there's probably enough to last a while. People have always wanted other options as well.

Very encouraging survey, in any case.

Joe StamponeOct 6 2010 01:54 PM

Great post. Smart growth has been a trend for some time now and it's great to see it continue to build momentum.

What's important is that Hi-Production builders begin to embrace sustainable development. They're the ones who can have the greatest impact, however it's the larger companies that are usually the laggards in adopting new trends.

Davin LarsonOct 7 2010 12:37 PM

The winds of change are shifting in favor of sustainability and livability. As resources become more scarce (land, fuel), America is going to need to turn away from the suburban and exurban craze that has dominated new development for decades. Greater walkability leads to cleaner air for everyone, more connected communities, and less dependence on fossil fuels. Support sustainable communities in your area. Visit and find a TEN affiliate in your area.

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