Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions
Across the United States, many neighborhoods are experiencing dramatic transformations. Parking lots, underused commercial properties, and former industrial sites are being replaced by condominiums, apartments, townhouses, and small-lot single-family homes. These examples of residential infillóbuilding new homes in previously developed areasócan help to create new housing choices, make neighborhoods livelier, increase the tax base, protect rural landscapes, reduce infrastructure costs, and conserve natural resources. Infill can also provide significant environmental benefits when compared with conventional suburban development. Developing more compactly in a location surrounded by existing development means that residents can drive less if they choose, reducing air pollution, and that less paved surface is needed for roads and parking lots, reducing the amount of polluted stormwater runoff flowing into waterways (see Environmental Benefits of Smart Growth for more information).
While examples of successful infill housing projects abound, big questions still remain: Do such examples add up to a fundamental shift in the geography of residential construction? Is infill housing construction on the rise? In which metropolitan regions is the shift to infill most significant? EPA explored these questions in a series of reports released in 2009, 2010, and 2012.
Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions: 2012 Edition (PDF) (42 pp, 4.5MB, About PDF) compares the location of new homes to data about pre-existing land cover to determine where infill development was taking place in 209 U.S. metropolitan regions between 2000 and 2009. The findings affirm the overall conclusions of the previous two reports while painting a more geographically detailed picture of infill development trends.
The report finds that:
- Nearly three out of four large metropolitan regions saw an increased share of infill housing development in 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004. The report examined 51 large metropolitan regions (population 1 million or greater). Of those, 36 saw an increased share of infill housing development during 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004. In many regions, this increase was dramatic. For example, Miami increased from 40 percent to 49 percent infill, and Providence, Rhode Island, increased from 20 percent to 29 percent.
- Infill accounted for one-fifth of new housing construction. In the 209 metropolitan regions examined in this study, 21 percent of all new homes were built in previously developed areas. Northeastern metropolitan regions had the most infill construction, with 32 percent of all new housing units built in previously developed areas. In the South, infill accounted for 16 percent of new home construction.
- Infill residential development varied widely among metropolitan regions. Eight out of 10 new homes in San Jose, California, were infill. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco all saw a majority of new home construction in previously developed areas during the same period. However, infill accounted for only 7 percent of new housing construction in Austin, Texas. In medium-sized regions, such as Prescott, Arizona, infill's share was as low as 2 percent.
- Infill is associated with higher home prices and rail transit investment. Metropolitan regions that had a larger share of infill housing development tended to have higher median home sales prices, more miles of rail transit per capita, and higher transit ridership per capita.
- Nearly all metropolitan regions are growing outward more than they are growing inward. During the later period of this analysis (2005 - 2009), infill as a share of new home construction exceeded 50 percent in only four metropolitan regions. The other 205 metropolitan regions were still growing outward faster than they were growing inward when measured on a per housing unit basis.
The map shows how infill as a percentage of all housing construction varies among U.S. metropolitan regions.
The report includes a listing of resources available to local, regional, and state leaders who want to coordinate land use, housing, and transportation policies to more effectively support infill housing development.
For questions about the 2012 report, please contact Kevin Ramsey (202-566-1153, email@example.com).
Read the 2012 report: Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions: 2012 Edition (PDF) (42 pp, 4.5MB, About PDF).
The 2009 and 2010 editions of this report examined residential building permits in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan regions at the county or jurisdictional level. The 2009 report, Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions 2009 (PDF) (33 pp, 664K, About PDF), examined data from 1990 to 2007. EPA expanded the data set to include 2008 data for a 2010 update of the report, Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions 2010 (PDF) (32 pp, 654K, About PDF). This analysis was intended to clarify:
- Whether there has been a shift toward redevelopment.
- Which regions have seen the most significant change.
Both reports indicated that the distribution of residential construction changed significantly in many regions. In more than half of the largest metropolitan areas, the share of new residential building permits that were in urban neighborhoods had dramatically increased.
- In 15 regions, urban neighborhoods had more than doubled their share.
- The increase was particularly dramatic from 2002 to 2008, showing that the trend of increasing development in urban neighborhoods continued in the wake of the real estate market downturn.
In many regions, however, a large portion of new residential construction was still taking place on previously undeveloped land on the urban fringe.
The 2010 report showed that:
- Redevelopment in urban neighborhoods added up to more than half of new residential construction in only one metropolitan region: New York.
- In eight regions, redevelopment in urban neighborhoods accounted for one-quarter to one-half of new construction:
- Los Angeles.
- Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Va.
- Portland, Ore.
- San Diego.
- San Francisco.
- In 18 regions, redevelopment in urban neighborhoods significantly increased but accounted for less than one-quarter of new residential units.
- In six regions, there was very little change in urban neighborhoods' share of new residential construction.
For questions about the 2009 and 2010 reports, please contact John Thomas (202-566-1285, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Read the 2009 report: Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions 2009 (PDF) (33 pp, 664K, About PDF)
Read the 2010 report: Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions 2010 (PDF) (32 pp, 654K, About PDF)