Residential Construction Trends in America's Metropolitan Regions

Across the country, many urban neighborhoods are experiencing dramatic transformations. Parking lots, underused commercial properties and former industrial sites are being replaced by condos, apartments and townhouses. In spite of the many impressive projects, a central question remains: Do such examples add up to a fundamental shift in the geography of residential construction?

To answer this question, EPA examined residential building permits in the 50 largest metropolitan regions. The main goal was to clarify: 1) if there has been a shift toward redevelopment; and 2) in which regions the shift has been most significant.

The trends indicate that the distribution of residential construction has significantly changed over time in many regions. In more than half of the largest metropolitan areas, urban core communities have dramatically increased their share of new residential building permits.
• The central city has more than doubled its share in 15 regions.
• The increase has been particularly dramatic over the past five years.
• Data from 2007 shows the trend continuing in the wake of the real estate market downturn.

However, in many regions, a large share of new residential construction still takes place on previously undeveloped land on the urban fringe.
• Redevelopment in urban core communities adds up to more than half of new residential construction in only one region: New York.
• In seven regions, infill development accounts for between one-quarter and one-half of new construction: San Francisco; Miami; San Diego; Dallas; Chicago; Portland, Ore.; and Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Va.
• In 13 regions, infill development significantly increased but accounted for less than one-quarter of new residential units.
• In 12 regions, there was very little change in the distribution.
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