This marks a shift away from suburban demand, which has driven home construction for decades, The Associated Press reports. Living near city centers is often more costly and may force more Americans to rent, says John Mcllwain, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute. “Middle-class Americans are being squeezed out,” he says.
Land prices in cities with attractive amenities is surging, industry strategist and George Washington University professor Christopher Leinberger says.
The convenience of living downtown doesn’t come cheap. In Chattanooga, Tenn., for example, the starting price for a townhome development in the downtown area – with restaurants, stores and a waterfront park – is $610,000. That’s nearly three times the average in the metro area.
In 2012, homebuilder Toll Brothers spent $24 million to buy two-thirds of an acre near Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. That’s the equivalent of about $830 a square foot. Before the ballpark was there, the going rate was about $5 a square foot for the land.
In Chicago, a complex of 47 luxury row houses in the downtown area broke ground last month and every apartment was sold before construction began. Units start at $562,900. Buyers were willing to wait 12 to 16 months before being able to move in.
The American Planning Association says that even though 40 percent of Americans live in a suburb “where most people drive to places,” only 7 percent expressed a desire to remain in car-dominated neighborhoods.