A recent report from the National Association of Realtors crystalizes the generational and class warfare suburbanites have perpetrated on the rest of this nation. 

The share of first-time buyers, NAR wrote, has reached its lowest level since the group began tracking the data. Most buyers active in the market – 3 in every 4 – are repeat buyers, up from 2 in 3 the year before. 

The median age of a buyer is at an all-time high, too. Among the 75 percent of homebuyers in 2022 who were repeat buyers, NAR said, the median age was 59. 

Jessica Lautz, NAR’s vice president of demographics and behavioral insights, put it plainly in a statement released along with the report: “Those who have housing equity hold the cards and they’ve fared very well in the current real estate market. First-time buyers are older as a result of saving for down payments for longer periods of time or relying on a generational transfer of wealth to propel them into homeownership.” 

We all know how we got here. A housing construction pipeline choked off by suburbanites – and, it’s worth saying, not a few urbanites, too – who can’t abide any change to their single-family neighborhoods under a misguided theory that multifamily housing means lower property values or higher taxes. And a scarcity of housing plus the Millennial demographic boom equals a ratchet that continually tightens the housing market. 

For some, this is simple racism and classism. Just witness the number of people who show up to community meetings fulminating against “those people” who will be “brought into our community” by new apartments.  

For others, it’s a more subtle kind of selfishness: more neighbors mean more services, whether that’s seats in schools, another fire truck or better transit, that could increase their taxes.  

Forget that multifamily buildings are more valuable than single-family ones on the same amount of land. Forget that town centers become more prosperous and more vibrant with more density. 

Forget that our region is full of people who cram into apartments too small to hold them because suburbs won’t let housing be built.  

Forget that suburban homeowners are definitionally better off than most renters and could easily afford a small tax increase should one even be necessary. Forget that keeping these renters – who are more likely to be people of color, by the way – out of elite suburbs like Newton locks them out of high-performing schools and therefore out of economic opportunity.  

As far as the housing market goes, America is no longer the land of opportunity. It’s the land of “I’ve got mine, get lost.” This is the reality our next governor, Karen Spilka and Ron Mariano must confront next year, head on.  

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Generational Warfare in the Housing Market

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min