Tom and Pat Kelly spent 22 years living what many people consider the American dream: They owned a four-bedroom home with a pool and a big yard in Turnersville, N.J. They traded that in to live near a train station.
With two of their three children living on their own, the couple no longer wanted to spend time raking leaves, shoveling snow and doing other maintenance their large home required. So they moved to LumberYard, a mixed-use condominium development near their son's and daughter's homes and within walking distance of the local train station.
Now, instead of spending two or more hours commuting daily in his red Volkswagen Beetle, Mr. Kelly, 56, hops on the Patco high-speed train line and gets to his Philadelphia law-firm job across the Delaware River in about a half-hour. "It's just a much more enjoyable life," he says.
LumberYard is a transit-oriented development, or TOD, one of a growing number of mixed-use developments that combine town houses or condominiums with retail shops, hotels and other businesses—all perched near a train station.
The Collingswood development's condos are steps away from a hair salon, an Italian restaurant and a Pilates studio. "You could get to anything without a car," says Ms. Kelly, 58.
Tom Kelly slashed his commute time when he and his wife, Pat, moved to the LumberYard after 22 years in a large suburban home.
Developers say this type of project is now one of the fastest-growing areas of the housing market. The growth comes as developers regroup after the housing and financial crises. Some developers say they aim to focus more on these projects.
Efforts to rein in sprawl slowly gathered steam over the past couple of decades, but the housing bust helped shape this latest crop of TOD newcomers. During the housing frenzy, Americans were willing to buy a pricey home an hour or more from their workplaces. But now gas prices around $4 a gallon have made that commute costly.
Plus, housing values have dropped by a third or more since the 2006 peak, so tying up one's net worth in a suburban home that isn't guaranteed to increase in value seems too big a risk.
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It isn't mentioned in the article, but I suspect that demographic trends are also a major contributing factor to this. The couple cited, for instance, belong to an older cohort and have few children remaining at home (just one in their case). This age group is expanding, as is the number of young adults, while the age group which is actively raising children, due to a continually delaying age of first marriage, is projected to remain steady. Demand for large housing will accordingly remain low for quite some time, especially as it was overbuilt during the housing boom, while the younger and older age groups, who have less perceived need of space or isolation, as well as more disposable income, will drive demand for more convenient transit oriented development.