New EPA report fills in story of housing trends

The popularity of infill development and walkable neighborhoods continues to grow, according to a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Residential Construction Trends in America’s Metropolitan Regions focuses on 209 metropolitan regions between 2000 and 2009 and offers a look at trends in residential infill development, i.e. new homes built in previously developed areas. The main findings during that period:

Nearly three out of four large metropolitan regions saw an increased share of infill housing development during 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004. Among the 51 large metropolitan regions (population one million or greater) examined in this study, 36 saw an increased share of infill housing development during 2005-2009 compared to 2000-2004. In many regions, this increase was substantial. Miami increased from 40 percent infill to 49 percent infill. Providence, Rhode Island, increased from 20 percent to 29 percent. Several medium-sized metropolitan regions (population 200,000–one million) saw even greater shifts towards infill housing.

Infill accounted for one-fifth of new housing construction. Among all 209 metropolitan regions examined in this study, 21 percent of all new home-building occurred in previously developed areas. Northeastern metropolitan regions experienced the most infill construction, with 32 percent of all new housing units built in previously developed areas. In the South, infill accounted for just 16 percent of new home construction.

Infill residential development varied widely among metropolitan regions. Eight out of ten 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. In Austin, Texas, however, infill accounted for only seven percent of new housing construction. In medium-sized regions, such as Prescott, Arizona, infill’s share was as low as two 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 also have higher median home sales prices, more miles of rail transit per capita, and higher transit ridership per capita.

Greenfield home construction exceeded infill in nearly all metropolitan regions. During the later period of this analysis (2005 and 2009), infill as a share of new home construction exceeded 50 percent in only four metropolitan regions. The other 205 metropolitan regions were still adding more housing in greenfield areas than in previously developed areas.

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