The Great (Millennial) Migration

They’re calling it a ‘great migration.’ Families–especially young first-time home buyers–are leaving larger metro areas in favor of medium-sized towns and cities with enough frequency to cause a trend. What impact will they bring to their new cities? What happens to the places they leave behind?

Principal J. Michael Murphey shares his thoughts on what forces are driving this trend, what entices these individuals to new areas, and how local municipalities can prepare for the influx of people in these once small towns.
Distribution and logistics – greater surge in last-mile; geographical in nature; easier to get items like groceries today through online ordering, shopping and expedited delivery, decreasing inconvenience.

The need for access to goods and services has become greater as more people relocate and move further away from the traditional corner grocery store. What was once a luxury of living in a big city has become a commodity. More and more families are relocating to a “happy medium” – medium sized cities that afford the luxury of access to goods and services, healthcare, education, and more, while also fostering a sense of community.

As smaller cities grow, cities will continue to see more spaces between home and work surface. These businesses, referred to as third spaces, come at a high demand from millennial movers – especially small families. Entertainment venues, bars, restaurants, galleries and more will continue to be in high demand, potentially seeing large increases in storefronts across the main streets of Small Town USA’s throughout the nation.

Take Central Florida for example. Our three offices are located throughout one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. What once was a destination for retirees has been reimagined into a utopia of sorts. With fast access to major metropolises, increasing access to transportation, connectivity, heightened entertainment opportunities, and a climate that is completely removed from harsh winters, more and more millennials find themselves relocating here for more than just a job.

The remote work trend has also favored these trends. According to the ASID 2022 Trends Outlook study, an estimated 14 million to 23 million Americans may relocate in 2022 due to the rise of remote work. Families who transitioned to remote work quickly discovered the benefits suddenly began to outweigh the hustle of city life. Significantly reduced rent, commute times, and greater work-life flexibility became more and more attractive to the millennial generation now dominating the workforce. Offering a much more affordable way of living, the choice to relocate for many meant more money in their bank accounts to spend how they wanted – not necessarily on rent.

As more and more people continue to relocate across the nation, cities should continue to effectively plan for these influxes to occur. Things like roadways, infrastructure, recreation, and housing will continue to be in high demand. These stresses of increased population at an expedited rate are something the Central Florida area has become accustomed to – and it’s only increasing. City stakeholders should continue to plan, execute and evaluate as more and more people continue to arrive.
Cities can also work to ensure that zoning regulations are adapting to the needs of the community. Without forethought, cities will run the risk of main arteries of a city becoming clogged with ineffective design that’s not conducive to fostering the forward momentum of the community.

When it comes to housing, in trending with migration patterns we’re also seeing the average family size shrink. Millennials, statistically, are marrying older and having fewer children, which also impacts the way we design shelter. According to the ASID 2022 Trends Outlook study, researchers found that more than one in four non-parents between the ages of 18 and 49 say they are not likely to have children ever.

Smaller families require smaller homes, and at a greater need, we’re seeing the number of multifamily homes substantially increase to meet demand. According to research presented in the ASID 2022 Trends Outlook study, in the past decade, the number of adults living alone rose by 4 million, with one-person households now accounting for 28 percent of all U.S. households.

With smaller homes at greater availability, we also will see a trend toward advocacy for more affordable housing in our small to medium sized cities. By urging for the removal of barriers at a municipal level, we work to make it more conducive for developers to help solve the housing issues we face. We must improve the quality, reduce the cost and reduce the obstacle of purchase for first-time homeowners.

We, unlike smaller local firms, bring extensive experience and knowledge acquired by working with clients throughout the nation, bringing the latest trends and best practices for the projects we work on. One of the opportunities we are afforded is that we are, as design professionals, in a position to affect this and have the ability to advocate for these changes with key decision makers. We help remove barriers and aid in conscious decision making for how our city grows and adapts.