As younger populations continue to flock toward urban and suburban centers, many are left to wonder about the well being of aging homeowners and the structures in which they are aging in place.
According to a report from the Urban Institute (urban.org) over the next 15 years, urban and rural communities in the United States will see their populations grow. But in rural areas, the increase will be mostly elderly citizens.
And it’s not only the population that’s aging quickly in rural areas - housing stock is also much older than the housing in cities, the study found. With substantially more of those home in urgent need of replacement, rehabilitation, or retrofitting, the UI report indicates.
Though communities of all kinds will continue to experience population increases, the growth rate will decelerate in the coming years, with rural areas remaining at a much slower pace.
Between 2010 and 2020, rural populations are projected to grow by just 2 percent, while urban populations will increase by 9 percent. And between 2020 and 2030, rural population growth will slow to just 1 percent, while urban populations will grow by 8 percent.
Slow population growth does not necessarily translate into decreased housing demand, however. While the average person is living longer and more independently than in past generations, a house deteriorates with time, so new housing must be built or existing housing rehabilitated.
So is it better to build new homes or rehabilitate old ones?
New construction or a new manufactured home can be more cost effective, but many older homes are well situated, structurally sound, and fairly large. These factors make them good candidates for upgrades in energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and modifications that might take up space but can support homeowners with physical and memory impairments.
The number of aging homes that are good candidates for rehabilitation is expanding much faster than new households throughout rural America, making this rehabilitation need urgent. Many households can make the investments themselves and installing energy-efficient systems can offer savings.
And as demand grows for home retrofits, so will the experience of local contractors and the building industry more broadly, increasing innovation and decreasing cost.