Cities and close-in suburbs looking to the future see a troubling trend: The millennials who rejuvenated their downtowns over the past decade are growing older and beginning to leave.
Katherine Shaver | The Washington Post
The oldest are hitting their mid-30s, with many starting to couple up and have children. Meanwhile, the sleek high-rise apartment buildings built for them as single young professionals are no longer practical or affordable as they seek to buy homes with more space and privacy.
“There’s been this huge wave of people in cities all over the country. Then they grow up. Then what?,” said Yolanda Cole, who owns a D.C. architectural firm and chairs ULI Washington, part of the Urban Land Institute, a research organization dedicated to responsible land use.
In an effort to retain these residents, some urban planners, developers and architects are reviving the kinds of homes that might be more familiar to millennials’ great-grandparents: duplexes, triplexes, bungalows, rowhouses with multiple units, and small buildings with four to six apartments or condos.
It’s the kind of housing that fell out of fashion after World War II, when young families and others fled cities for the houses, driveways and ample yards of the burgeoning suburbs. Planners and architects refer to it as the “missing middle.” It hits the middle in scale — larger than a typical detached single-family home but smaller than a mid- or high-rise — and typically serves people with middle-class incomes.
Daniel Parolek, an architect based in Berkeley, Calif., who coined the term in 2010, said the need for more missing middle housing is hardly limited to millennials. But as they grow older, he said, questions have been raised about how cities will continue to evolve if many of the generation are priced out once they want to put down roots.
“In particular with this generation, that played an important role in revitalizing cities,” Parolek said, “I think keeping them in cities is a major conversation.”