City migration — reversing the trends of the last half of the 20th Century, where people moved from cities out to the suburbs — have been the hallmark of the Their Millennium. Cities in the United States have shown a huge resurgence in growth, with urban populations growing at 12.1% in the first decade, compared with 9.7% for overall growth, according to the Census Bureau.
But even those shocking statistics (urban growing 25% than the rest of the country) don’t tell the whole story. First, the “whole nation” statistic also includes the urban statistic, so the gap is actually wider. Second, an urban area, as defined by the Census, covers some much smaller cities than one might imagine (there are 486 urbanized areas, but only 10 cities with a population over a million). Third, averages are averages, and don’t take into account local situations and explanations.
We’ve all seen the tremendous migrations in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. The effects of city migration have largely been extremely positive (though there are some challenges. For example, San Francisco homes are only affordable to 8% of households). But no matter where you sit in the overall real-estate value chain, this move has been great for you! Now, the tough question. What next?
As Mike Bookey points out for The Inlander, Spokane is a natural target for city migration and general downtown reconstruction into a place where people actually live. This got me thinking. While some of the major metropolitan areas, particularly here in the Pacific Northwest, may be approaching bubble status, the desire of people to move out of suburbs and into cities isn’t going to change in the next 5 to 10 years. It’s a natural trend. And so, there is a huge opportunity in send-tier cities. Whether you’re an agent, a broker, a developer, investor, or anyone else in the industry, it’s time to cast an eye towards Spokane, Boise, Tacoma, Vancouver, Eugene, and Salem. They represent a tremendous opportunity over the next decade.