Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, December 13, 2021

Real estate development is a perpetually hot topic, especially in metro areas in the South and West. More people keep moving in, and they’ve got to live and work somewhere. Just yesterday, I noted how my town was priming for that growth with a parade of condo plans.

It looks like St. Pete is going to have to ramp up an already ambitious construction plan. The Brookings Institution released a report suggesting that America’s existing residential and commercial infrastructure won’t be nearly enough to accomodate the population of 2030.

Some highlights:

- In 2030, about half of the buildings in which Americans live, work, and shop will have been built after 2000.

The nation had about 300 billion square feet of built space in 2000. By 2030, the nation will need about 427 billion square feet of built space to accommodate growth projections. About 82 billion of that will be from replacement of existing space and 131 will be new space. Thus, 50 percent of that 427 billion will have to be constructed between now and then.

- Most of the space built between 2000 and 2030 will be residential space.

The largest component of this space will be homes. Over 100 billion square feet of new residential space will be needed by 2030. However, percentage-wise, the commercial and industrial sectors will have the most new space with over 60 percent of the space in 2030 less than 30 years old.

- While these projections may seem overwhelming, they also demonstrate that nearly half of what will be the built environment in 2030 doesn’t even exist yet, giving the current generation a vital opportunity to reshape future development.

Recent trends indicate that demand is increasing for more compact, walkable, and high quality living, entertainment, and work environments. The challenge for leaders is to create the right market, land use, and other regulatory climates to accommodate new growth in more sustainable ways.

That last part sounds most promising to me. It also matches the fervent hopes of many municipal governments, who would love to revitalize downtown neighborhoods with more diverse and affluent residents. Providing services like trash disposal and police/fire services is a lot more management in a compacted city core, versus a far-flung patchwork of exurbs dwellings.

How realistic is this? People reallly like their little front- and backyard lots, and there’s still plenty of room to grow that way in many areas. The increasingly-aggravating commutes that come with that American dream are starting to erode its appeal, though. Governmental facilitation is key in determining direction, and that facilitation could take two forms:

1. Major investment into transportation infrastructure, including not only highways and other roads, but also public transportation like buses and trains;

2. Tax breaks and other incentives to lure inner-city development and residential migration.

Of the two, the second option is more cost-effective, and makes more sense on a long-term growth basis. As long as there’s support from the business community (always iffy, depending upon the overall economy, but favorable right now), eschewing the outer edges for urban renewal has a good chance for success.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/13/2004 09:32:22 PM
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