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Housing in the West

With the possible exception of microbreweries, which seem to multiply like cells in a petri dish, perhaps the single most ubiquitous feature across the American West is the detached, single family home. Okay, well, maybe there aren’t that many brew houses (although there are a lot). But because of the Census Bureau, we can say with certainty the number of detached single family homes throughout the states. A recent article in the Washington Post looked at the breakdown of housing types in the larger metropolitan regions of the U.S. We wondered how this was playing out in the West, so we dug into the data ourselves. The short story: The detached single family home makes up a significant majority of all the housing types throughout the West. (And as a side note, the Census data cover far more than just the West. If you’re interested in taking a look at your specific neck of the woods, access the data here). The chart below breaks down housing type in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana and a few select cities within those states. housing chart Far and away the most prominent dwelling type is the single family home. And that makes sense for a couple reasons. One, is that since around the 1950s, the building industry (fueled by government policies at a wide range of scales) has been building mostly detached single family (DSF) homes. The other is that people still prefer the DSF home. However, the latter point is important, especially for the building community to understand. In poll after poll, people state their preference for single family homes. But let’s be clear: Dig into the studies and we quickly see that it’s not just any DSF that people prefer, it’s the single family home that’s close to amenities and recreation, in a safe, walkable neighborhood. Let’s also be clear that the market for DSF, while still strong, is becoming increasingly segmented as people seek different living arrangements, like more multi-family, in different parts of their town. The upshot is that the consumer’s view of a desirable home—DSF or otherwise—is evolving in favor of safe, compact, mixed use neighborhoods. Back to the data, one interesting item to note is that the DSF makes up a smaller segment of market share in the more resort-oriented communities of Glenwood Springs, Sandpoint, Edwards, Bozeman, Jackson and Steamboat Springs. There are several factors driving the growth of this type in these markets. For some, like Edwards and Bozeman, proximity to a significant tourist draw (Vail resort and Yellowstone Park, respectively) may propel the development of more cost and energy efficient multi family. For others, like Jackson, Sandpoint and Steamboat, the presence of a resort essentially in town may have the same effect. As housing preferences continue to evolve, the West (along with most everywhere else in the U.S.) will see an increasing supply of multi-family housing hit the market. Responding to consumer interests, new DSF homes will be integrated into a larger fabric of uses that create more walkable, inviting neighborhoods. And hey, if you’re going to frequent that new brewery, it might as well be within walking distance.

  • Housing