How Much Does Walkability Matter?
Updated: Feb 17
Texas Multi-Family Housing Q&A with Caroline and Kerry
Caroline Kane: A thousand times, yes.
In the multi-family housing market, walkability matters, but in more ways than you think.
For one, we see new research making a case for an uptick in the increased need for multi-family housing in areas primed for walkability. It is important to note that often all types of revitalization projects are currently happening in rural and suburban areas across America. These projects are also found in many metropolitan areas and will bring transformational changes to the urban landscape over the next two decades.
Property management companies and real estate investors need to understand how residents' lifestyle choices will affect rental trends as we move into the next decade. Lifestyle is making a difference in rental trends, which is very clear. This has always been a driving force behind how renters choose a property. It is important to find new and creative ways to market a property's strengths beyond walkability as it becomes the new model across the nation. This is especially true in many Texas areas like suburban new construction models to areas undergoing urban revitalization of historic properties. Rural revitalization is also at the forefront of this conversation. We can use the suburbs and rural areas north of Houston as an example where you can find the following cities: The Woodlands, Magnolia, Conroe, Tomball, and Spring. This area will balloon in growth in most part due to the relocation of HP headquarters announced just this month. An influx of employees with a California lifestyle paired with our signature, year-round warm weather will change the rental landscape due to the influx of demand for housing over the next few years, specifically in those cities found just north of Houston. This transition will also bring jobs and increased business for companies struggling to survive due to the pandemic. Many may have to restructure or expand their client base beyond, for example, corporate cleaning companies.
As we all know, 2020 has brought some tough times and unpredictable market changes for every industry, especially for those in real estate. Multi-family housing trends over the next year should consider many factors regarding remodels and new construction due to the increase in the needed workspace in your home. Lifestyle also includes things such as pet ownership. Just take the increase in dog ownership over the last year as we have moved to a workforce geared to allowing employees to work from home. It has been significant and multi-family housing has kept up offering dog runs, an increased need for veterinary care closer to home, and the promise of business opportunities found in pet supplies and sales. Money.com said it best, “When your best friend has a proclivity for walks and squirrel-chasing, where you live matters.” They make another great point about what people are looking for in multi-family properties: affordability and convenience matters to so many families or single person renters looking for the best of all worlds rolled into one monthly purchase — multi-family rentals will lead the rental market in the next 10 years. The reality is pet ownership and companionship is on the rise as more people cut out their daily work commutes. When considering a move, renters will be looking for the most “cost-effective places to live [especially] if your family has a dog,” because let's face it — pets are family.
New research suggests that walkability can have a hand in the ability to mitigate some of the barriers the pandemic has brought further into the light. It is not just a rural or urban issue; walkability is an important piece of the economy’s comeback as we find ways to help small businesses and real estate investors explore ways to thrive and invest post-COVID-19.
Keep up to date on the 2021 trends by checking out our suggested reading list below. These are resources to understand what new research is out there. This is important as we go into the new year and empower those in multi-family real estate to have a better scope for the 2021 analysis of multi-family housing trends.
Brookings is releasing a five-part series on a path forward. A must-read for any real estate professional as they analyze trends and strategies going into 2021. They are taking their on-the-ground research and presenting a compelling cause for urban and rural revitalization. This can provide much-needed economic wins for small businesses and real estate investors, professionals, and many other industries that need a better way to provide resilience to any economic policies that may come from local, state, or federal governments over the next four years.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation has some interesting material that will be addressed in the upcoming legislative session as our elected officials take on redistricting. Multi-Family housing issues will come to light due to the population density. “Texans have an easier time than most realizing the American Dream. A combination of limited government and minimal regulations encourages the economic efficiency necessary to keep housing costs relatively low. According to the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M, 62.8% of Texas homeowners had a mortgage considered “affordable” in 2018, whereas the national average was somewhat lower, at 60.6%. In 2010, those percentages were 55.8% and 49.9%, respectively.” All eyes are on Texas as some of the biggest tech companies move their headquarters to the Lone Star State.
Kerry Ream: Another must-watch trend is the migration from cities to suburbs due to remote work. Allowing many to work from anywhere means you can live in almost any place your heart desires. Experts on this issue note that “we should be careful about using an old framing–city versus suburb–to understand a new trend: the growing market for walkable urban places found both in traditional downtowns and increasingly throughout metro areas with multiple cores. The Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis recently released a new report, Foot Traffic Ahead 2019, that offers fresh insight into these trends.”
As predicted for the new decade, the pandemic has accelerated the nationwide move from states with high taxes, as we see a mass exodus of major companies from California to Texas. Some of this is motivated by employers left with no choice but to move to states with fewer regulations. For example, California's energy issues became so burdensome it began to affect the quality of life. Moving to a state like Texas was done so that employees would not have to deal with rolling blackouts that hinder said employees' productivity. Another important factor is less regulation on restaurants' ability to open and serve customers in person. No income tax will also play a part in company relocation since previously lost revenues can now be re-incorporated into a likely strained budget. This move to Texas essentially allows for each employee to receive a Christmas bonus, granting staff the chance to keep more of their hard-earned money. This makes a significant difference for any family, whether it just be you and your spoiled pup or a family of four. All around, Texas is now a destination, and this trend is not going to be one that slows down..
“These trends are consistent with previous census releases for counties and metropolitan areas that point to a greater dispersion of the U.S. population as the economy and housing market pick back up, perhaps propelled by young adult millennials who may be finally departing dense urban cores as they make a delayed entrance into marriage and the housing market,” which backs up the numbers. We can expect new census data to suggest an emergence of suburbanization patterns, one that multi-family housing professionals and investors should note. This joins another positive indicator for big cities based on growth rates.
One of the most notable developments for the future of multi-family housing is this research-backed finding from Brookings experts:
Finding #1: Downtown revitalization promotes mixed-use development for retail and housing units— supporting the density and walkability that can help rural communities build resilience. However, affordability remains a concern.
True to their aim, downtown revitalization efforts successfully leveraged historic assets to foster small business and housing density downtown. This facilitates the conditions of proximity and walkability needed for small businesses to coordinate with one another amid the pandemic and have a residential base of customers nearby.
Remember, we are all in this together, and together we will move this country forward. It will take all of us business leaders to make sure we can revitalize the American idea through sound economic policy and leadership in the private and public sectors.
CKR property management company is praying for your family this holiday season. Best wishes to you and yours for a prosperous New Year filled with meaningful relationship building and successful business development!
The Economic Power of Walkability in Metro Areas
Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros
Transformative Placemaking: A framework to create connected, vibrant, and inclusive communities
Why Main Streets are a Key Driver of Equitable Economic Recovery in Rural America
City of Houston’s Safer Streets Initiative
Housing Affordability, Texas Public Policy Foundation
El Paso Named a Top US City for Public Parks and Walkability
Like It or Not, the Suburbs Are Changing
Living In Walkable Cities Predicts Success of ‘American Dream’
Joel Kotkin: https://joelkotkin.com/about/
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