How ‘hipsturbia’ is transforming the very fabric of traditional suburban life

Predicted rapid urban growth – touted as one of the primary trends of the 21st century – is being tempered by an unexpected emergent trend: ‘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.

Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s international Realty, explains: “As millennials settle down and start families they are exchanging their urban dwellings for family homes in suburbia.

“However, for many, leaving the city to live a quiet suburban life is not through choice but rather of necessity due to compelling factors like affordability and being near good schools.

Conventional suburbs falling short

“And, as millennials have very different lifestyle requirements than generations before them, conventional suburbs generally fall far short of meeting their needs.

“Traditional suburbs were developed to optimise house and plot sizes, and being very 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 landscape.”

“This generation wants the best of both worlds,” says Geffen, “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.

“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.”

City growth starting to slow

According to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC who has studied city migration patterns for decades, the growth of large cities has begun to slow in recent years whilst 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, which Frey attributes to several key factors, including what he calls “the return of suburbanisation”.

In London, young residents are also being driven out of the city by spiraling property prices and many outlying suburbs are becoming noticeably younger and ethnically diverse.

Improving the suburbs

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, it won’t happen across the board,” says Geffen, “but suburbs with the right attributes which can be adapted to incorporate elements of city living will see renewed interest from developers and investors.

“And, although the traditional drawcards of suburbs remain the same, urban millennials have come to expect a high level of convenience that they don’t offer, and to meet these demands, developers need to design their suburban communities with urban amenities in mind.

“And, as more and more of these suburbs attract a critical mass of ‘hip’ residents, their success will spur imitators to replicate the model, thereby keeping the trend going.”