Seniors, Millennials Drive Demand for Change in Kane's Housing Stock

Seniors, Millennials Drive Demand for Change in Kane’s Housing Stock

A report from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning indicates that a growing demand from seniors and millennials is likely to change the face of housing development in Kane County over the next 30 years.

In a Sept. 30 presentation to the Kane County Board Committee of the Whole, Kane County planning staff said they had worked with CMAP and other agencies on the “Homes for a Changing Region” project and recently completed two subregional housing plans: an Upper Fox Valley plan consisting of Carpentersville, Elgin, East Dundee and West Dundee, and a Central Fox Valley plan consisting of Batavia, Geneva, North Aurora and St. Charles.

The Central Fox Valley plan has yet to be approved and published, but it is expected to be available to the general public later this month.

The housing plans chart future supply and demand trends for those eight Kane County communities and recommends policy actions that will help these communities create a balanced, sustainable future housing supply.

And that should be good news for folks in Kane County’s Baby Boomer generation, who are reaching retirement age and are likely to want affordable housing on smaller lots — as well as rental units near public transportation and amenities — as their income levels drop in retirement.

Ironically, Kane County Land Use Planner Brett Hanlon said, those same amenities are also of great interest to Kane County’s Millennial generation, who are typically driving less and have different lifestyle preferences than preceding generations.

“A lot of people can relate to it directly,” Hanlon said. “These are kids with college degrees, and there’s nowhere that’s affordable for them to rent or own. If they can’t find a place in their community, they’re forced to leave or live with their parents — and that’s not the way it should be.”

The report analyzes batches of data and comes up with three interesting observations:

(1) Declines in income and employment have pushed more residents into spending more than 30 percent of household income on housing costs.

Basically, that’s too high a percentage. When people are spending most of their income on housing, food and utilities, there’s not a very high standard of living and it doesn’t allow for disposable income that can help boost a local economy.

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(2) Forecasts predict that seniors will drive a growing need for  less expensive housing, especially rental housing over the next 30 years.

As you can see by the charts below, there’s a huge demand for housing from people who are making $35,000 to $50,000 a year. A big percentage of those are folks over 65 years old, but a growing number are in the 25-and-under crowd.

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(3) Millennials share similar preferences with seniors for smaller homes and access to transportation and amenities.

Hanlon said developers agree with regional, county and city planners that there will be higher demand for multifamily living space, especially in downtown areas.

“We sat down and had a meeting, and they (developers) are seeing the exact same things — there is an increasing demand for small houses on smaller lots and rental units. It’s a different housing market,” Hanlon said. “Their concern is the next step. Lenders, banks are slow to lend for multifamily, and they have been slow to adapt to the changing housing market.”

Many developers said they may be able to use data compiled from the CMAP report in loan applications, Hanlon said. The more money developers have to invest, the more likely the regional housing vision can become reality.


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The project team’s recommendations — which were developed in conjunction with municipal planning staff — include a variety of strategies and incentives that will foster the development of a diverse housing stock located in areas with easy access to neighborhood amenities and transportation options.

Having a wide range of housing types within a community will facilitate resident desires to “age in place,” Hanlon said, and it will ensure current residents have the option to remain living in the city they call home.

The Homes for a Changing Region presentation to the Kane County Committee of the Whole included a list of the subregional recommendations that were presented to either the Upper or Central Fox Valley subregions. In addition to these recommendations, there are specific recommendations for each of the eight participating communities.