People may be choosing to live in the city in higher rates than before, but that doesn’t mean suburban living is taking a hit.
According to a report released Monday by the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, almost 80 percent of people who live in the nation’s largest metro areas reside in suburbs. Contrary to some perceptions, those suburbs are racially and ethnically diverse and represent several age groups, including young people.
And as improvements to standards of living in downtown areas drive growth for those who can afford to live there, urban growth often means suburban areas continue to be an affordable and appealing option.
“The recent revitalization of urban centers is in many cases complementary to the continued strength of their suburbs,” wrote Terwilliger Center for Housing executive director Stockton Williams in the report.
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While the report does not provide figures or analysis on how metro areas have changed over time, it does offer a snapshot of the current housing market and those who live there.
More people — roughly 60 percent of the Kansas City metro area population — live in areas classified by the Terwilliger Center as “established high-end” or “stable middle-income” suburbs. In the high-end areas, such as Leawood, Mission Hills and parts of the Northland, home values are high and areas often have high concentrations of baby boomers. In the stable, middle-income areas, such as Belton, Merriam or parts of Raytown, homes values are wide-ranging and housing older.
The survey also found that:
▪ Eight percent of the Kansas City metro area population lives in “urban” areas, places such as the Financial District, Crossroads and parts of Roanoke Park.
▪ Seventeen percent live in areas considered “economically challenged.” In Kansas City, those areas include parts of Independence; east Kansas City, Kan.; and sections of Grandview and Overland Park, to name a few.
▪ Twelve percent live in rural areas, on or near large parks, airports and military areas.
But while a significant part of the report is devoted to the national growth of two different additional kinds of housing markets — upscale housing on the outer edges of established suburbans areas as well as affordable housing further out from the downtown core and away from retail hubs and multiple school options — most Kansas Citians do not live in these areas.
According to the Terwilliger Center, just 1 percent and 3 percent of Kansas Citians, respectively, live in those areas, such as the parts of east Independence that aren’t technically considered suburbs or far west Wyandotte County.
In St. Louis, by comparison, 8 percent of the population lives in upscale developments at the edge of more established suburbs, and 11 percent live in affordable areas farther away from the urban core.