Are Virginians Headed to the Suburbs Again?

Sep 28, 2018

Fifty years ago, people began abandoning cities for the suburbs of Virginia. Then cities made a comeback and became thriving cultural centers.

Now, the pendulum may be swinging the other way.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Virginia’s cities hit rock bottom — the lowest population they had since the 1950s. Then something happened. Cities became hip again, and everybody wanted to live downtown. Now things might be changing again. Hamilton Lombard at the University of Virginia says that growth trend for cities may be more fragile than it appears.

“I think a little bit of what we’re seeing right now is a return to some of the trends that we saw before the recession, so there appears to still be more growth going on in cities than we had in a lot of decades beforehand. But it’s slowing down, and you’re seeing more families that often start off in cities moving out maybe to buy a home out in nearby suburban counties.”

Terry Clower at George Mason University says millennials are forming families now.

“And maybe their behavior will be a little bit different as homeowners and as parents than when they were twenty something years old. One of the things we oftentimes say about this is living above a bar is a lot of fun until you’re toting a four-year-old with you.”

Read more from the Demographics Research Group at UVA

That’s especially true in Richmond and Northern Virginia, he says, where housing in urban areas is becoming increasingly expensive. So perhaps it’s a shifting housing market that’s driving more growth in suburbia.

The University of Virginia is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.