Why Diversity Of Housing Options Matters to Communities

Packing, unpacking, acquiring more stuff, moving… packing, unpacking, accumulating even more stuff, moving…. It’s a pattern with which many of us are all too familiar! The average American moves about 11 times in their life. While many factors (e.g. employment opportunities, school, relationships) are at play, the housing life cycle exerts a great deal of influence.

What is the housing life cycle – and how can communities create optimal opportunities for their residents to put down strong roots?

What Is the Housing Life Cycle?

No one’s life stays static; we all experience a multitude of changes, from going off to college or trade school and to getting our first jobs to starting a family to reaching retirement. There are oftentimes nine stages that an individual, and later, a family passes through that impacts their housing needs:

1. Single Person Stage. Think fresh out of school and taking on the world. Here, people are most likely to rent an apartment. They have relatively limited space requirements, and they are not likely in the financial position to buy.
2. Unrelated Adults Stage. This is when you realize that being a grownup is expensive! You get a roommate to reduce costs and, perhaps, afford a larger space. Most rent, though some do buy.
3. Couple Stage. Partners, whether married or not, typically have similar needs to the single person stage. They may not need a ton of space or have the financial wherewithal to purchase yet.
4. Expanding Family Stage. Congratulations. You have a child, and you need more room. Many people also prefer having additional outdoor space and begin to consider homeownership.
5. Single Parent Family. The housing needs remain much the same as for expanding families in terms of space. Housing is highly dependent on the financial security of the parent who is raising the child/children.
6. Launching Family Stage. That adorable baby is now a teenager. People often prefer to have more space so they and their kids can enjoy privacy and have room for entertaining friends.
7. Empty Nest Stage. According to this model, the kids have flown off to live their own lives – but they may be back, and with their own children. Those with an empty nest often want enough space for their children to visit as well as for storage of their childhood items. And you know your kids are going to leave their stuff cluttering up your house!
8. Active Retirement Stage. For folks who are healthy and mobile, space needs may decline while the desire for more social activities increases. Home modifications may be needed to age-in-place.
9. Restricted Retirement Stage. When health needs grow more advanced, some retirees are not able to live alone. They may move into assisted living or retirement homes. If they are able to live independently, space needs tend to decrease markedly and more extensive renovations may be needed to facilitate mobility and create a safe environment to age-in-place safely.

Ok, first things first. Not everyone goes through these stages! This model was developed in the early 1990s; since then, lifestyles have changed dramatically. Not everyone goes to college or a trade school right after high school and then immediately moves out on their own. Some young people prefer to stay with their families while they save money. Not everyone gets married or wants to live with a partner. Not everyone has or wants to have children. You get the idea.

Still the housing life cycle is useful in that it shines a spotlight on our changing needs (even if your specific needs are not fully captured by it). It also underscores the fact that many communities are not designed

Why Diversity In Housing Options Matters

Home is not just where the heart is. It is also where your connections are. Your family. Your friends. Your neighbors. Your work. Your children’s school. Your doctor and dentist and mechanic. Your favorite corner coffee shop. When it’s really “home,” we put down roots. Those grow so deep that it is difficult, not to mention emotionally painful, to move. To uproot ourselves and leave behind a community we have come to love.

For example, if you invest in a community and your kids are involved with a school there, it may be a top priority for you to move up and buy a larger home within the same school system. To look at it through a longer lens, when young families are not able to buy into the community, the school systems see a decline in enrollment. This can lead to a mothballing of schools, which is in no one’s best interest.

On the other end of the spectrum, when folks eventually want to downsize, they need to have options that allow them to stay in the community – and stay engaged.

When communities offer a diversity of housing options (e.g. apartments, townhouses, bungalows, single family, multifamily structures) at a variety of price points, people can transition to housing that meets their needs. And they can stay home.

When people buy homes, they also invest money in the local economy and support local jobs. It makes good financial, and social, sense for communities to be forward-thinking with their housing policies. When balanced, achievable housing is available, communities win.

Home is not just where the heart is. It is also where your connections are. 

Join the Coalition

Connect with Build Indiana Roots at buildindianaroots.com to find out what we do, why we do it, and how you can get involved in ensuring hard-working Hoosiers have access to achievable housing – throughout all the stages of their lives.