Urbanisation has long been touted as one of the primary trends of the 21st century, with increasing migration to cities - especially among young people, fuelling gentrification and densification.
However, the predicted urban growth is being tempered by an unexpected emergent trend dubbed “hipsturbia”.
Identified as one of the major themes of the coming decade in the recently released Emerging Trends in Real Estate in 2020 report by Urban Land Institute and PwC, “hipsturbia” is already making waves, transforming the very fabric of traditional suburban life, says Yael Geffen, chief executive of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.
“As millennials settle down and start families they are exchanging their urban dwellings for family homes in suburbia.”
For many, though, leaving the city to live a quiet suburban life is not a choice but rather a necessity due to compelling factors like affordability and being near good schools. And, as millennials have very different lifestyle requirements from the generations before them, she says conventional suburbs generally fall far short of meeting their needs.
“Traditional suburbs were developed to optimise house and plot sizes, and being car dependent, most have very few amenities within walking distance, other than a convenience store and occasionally a park, but millennial suburbanites want a very different of landscape.
“This generation wants the best of both worlds – the spaciousness of a suburban home with room for the kids to play and grow, as well as the convenience and sociability of cosmopolitan urban life.”
Geffen explains that their preference is for denser, mixed-use neighbourhoods in well-situated suburbs near major metros which are being transformed into vibrant live-work-play districts – hubs with good walkability and enticing retail, dining and recreational options.”
William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington who has studied city migration patterns for decades, says the growth of large cities has begun to slow in recent years while the growth of many smaller cities and towns has picked up pace.
The largest cities in the US are now experiencing the slowest growth and highest population losses, Frey says.
In London, young residents are also being driven out of the city by spiralling property prices and many outlying suburbs are becoming noticeably younger and ethnically diverse.
Geffen says: “Instead of worrying about how they will ever be able to afford an apartment in the city, millennials are shifting their focus to find ways in which to improve the suburbs and modify them to meet their needs.”
Although the hipsturbia movement is gathering momentum, suburbs that can be adapted to incorporate elements of city living will see renewed interest from developers and investors. The traditional drawcards of suburbs remain the same but urban millennials have come to expect a high level of convenience that they don’t offer and so, to meet these demands, she says developers need to design suburban communities with urban amenities in mind.