Lynn Ross
Lynn Ross
After the housing bubble burst in 2008, many areas were hit hard by foreclosures, creating widespread homeownership losses. As the economy continues to recover, one thing is certain: The “old normal” will not return, because consumer preferences are changing.  
In a new paper, the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing provides insights into how developers are meeting market demands by creating better and more sustainable places to live. “Residential Futures: Thought-Provoking Ideas on What’s Next for Master-Planned Communities” includes the results and analysis of a survey distributed to the institute’s members who specialize in residential development. ECOHOME talks with Terwilliger Center director Lynn Ross about the report and its implications for home building professionals.
What were some of your publication’s important findings or ideas?
What’s interesting about “Residential Futures” is that it is based on moment-in-time responses from a selection of ULI members with deep experience in the master-planned community sector. In some cases, their responses demonstrate agreement and other cases respondents answered the same question with opposing viewpoints. The goal of the project is to present a range of ideas and to, hopefully, generate further discussion about what’s next for residential development.
That said, I would say the most important finding is that this group of developers thinks there is a promising future for master-planned communities.
What role will sustainability play in the communities of the near future?
Sustainability will play a big role because it has moved into the mainstream of what consumers want and expect. I think the challenge for developers is that building in more sustainability can still be more expensive upfront than traditional development and while consumers want it, they are not always willing to pay more for it.
What does the future of home buying look like? Who will be buying homes and will they elect to purchase new homes over resales?
Interestingly, the respondents felt that new homes would have the edge over resales in the next few years. The thought is that younger buyers entering the market will be taking a very hard look at monthly costs including maintenance. New homes will be appealing to this group because of the lower maintenance costs.
What designs and amenities will attract buyers in the future?
The respondents felt that most of the lifestyle amenities (such as community rooms and pools) would remain the same. There was some discussion about a need for smaller, well-designed homes that have more flexible space plans. Another new facet of design will be homes that built with the tech-savvy consumer in mind. 
What about location?
Most of the respondents felt that suburban areas—where most master-planned communities have traditionally been developed—can still be good locations. The difference is that even in these suburban areas there is now an expectation of a more urban, compact feel.