Demographic shifts could lead to household, construction boom in the South

Demographic shifts could lead to household, construction boom in the South
Huntsville's Village of Providence community is an example of a trend called "Surban" development -- suburban communities with urban-style amenities -- that could be a significant part of the population boom expected in the Southeast during the next 10 years. (Alabama Center for Real Estate)

The Southeast is positioned to see tremendous growth in both population and housing over the next 10 years.

The South is expected to see some of the strongest population and household growth in the next decade. (From Big Shifts Ahead: Demographic Clarity for Business)

According to Chris Porter, co-author of Big Shifts Ahead: Demographic Clarity for Business (co-authored with John Burns), the trend of migration toward the sunbelt states has been happening for a while, but this could increase exponentially over the next decade for a variety of reasons.

“We think it is going to accelerate mostly because you have an older population in the Midwest and the Northeast – those are generally colder areas – and they are in search of warmer areas as they retire,” Porter said in a recent interview with the Alabama Center for Real Estate.

The number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to increase 38 percent over the next decade, with more than 66 million Americans having reached their 65th birthday.

Porter said many retirees and future retirees already have second homes in states like Florida, but as they move further into retirement age, those second homes may become their primary residences.

Alabama’s Gulf Coast is home to a thriving condo market, where many of these developments already serve as second homes and vacation homes for people who live in other regions of the country.

Two other reasons the authors give for this migration are employment and affordability.

“Affordability plays into that as well,” Porter said. “When you look at the cost of housing, it’s generally people’s biggest expense.”

Single-family housing permits in the South grew from fewer than 1.3 million during the 1960s to 3-plus million during the 2000s. (From Big Shifts Ahead: Demographic Clarity for Business)

As younger households follow employment and affordability opportunities south, Porter said this will also draw more retirees.

“The coming generation of retirees wants to live near their grandkids, and their children will find better employment opportunities in the South,” the book said in a chapter dedicated entirely to this predicted southern migration.

According to the book, the Southeast accounts for 23 percent of all residential construction, with the South issuing fewer than 1.3 million construction permits for single-family homes in the 1960s, compared to 3-plus million during the 2000s.

Alabama continues to attract manufacturers to the state, ranging from auto plants to the 2,000 jobs at Remington in Huntsville.

While Texas is expected to see the largest amount of growth among the southern states, Porter said Alabama could take advantage of a new trend he and Burns call Surban living, which brings many attractions of urban life to suburban living.

“It’s very appealing to younger people who may live in a city for a while, who are maybe ready to settle in the suburban areas but want to bring some of that urban living environment with them,” Porter said.

Huntsville’s Village at Providence, a development outside of downtown Huntsville, which has retail, apartment, single-family, lodging and employment, fits the Surban lifestyle.

Porter said cities that focus on their downtowns over the next 10 years could bring in more households.

“I think if more cities invest in their downtown with a mix of retail and residential and entertainment, that can certainly be appealing to drawing new households to the area, especially if the jobs are available as well,” he said.

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