State of Housing: Who Are We?

State of Housing #4 • 622 Words

Editor’s note:
This is the fourth edition of our “State of Housing” series, which breaks down the HB854 Statewide Housing Study released this January. You can find previous posts in this series here.

Demographics are fundamental to understanding Virginia’s current and future housing needs.

The third part of the HB854 Statewide Housing Study includes eight chapters analyzing data on housing demand and needs across the Commonwealth.

In this edition, we’ll focus on the demographics chapter. It explains Virginia’s major population trends since 2010, which all influence the housing types and locations our state needs—and will need—moving forward. Here are some of the findings we think are most important.

Virginia is growing, but not as much as we have been.

The state’s population grew by more than half a million in the last decade, tallying 8,654,542 in the 2020 Census. This growth was fastest right after 2010, slowing slightly each year through 2019. However, the full count from 2020 revealed a higher-than-expected number, reversing this trend.

While the Census Bureau has released new 2021 population estimates since HB854 was published, which show a very small increase for Virginia, it will likely take another several years of data to accurately determine how the state’s growth has changed during COVID-19.

Why this matters:

This is as simple as it gets: more people need more homes.

That growth isn’t equally distributed across the Commonwealth.

Since 2010, just about every locality in rural Virginia has lost population. Meanwhile, metropolitan areas—especially those in the urban crescent—are growing rapidly. Even smaller metros, like the Winchester and Charlottesville regions, saw growth exceeding 9 percent from 2010 to 2020. These trends are a continuation of the same patterns Virginia has experienced since the 1990s, following rural economic decline and large job growth around urban centers.

Why it matters:

Shrinking populations in rural Virginia will make it challenging to preserve and improve existing housing stock for remaining residents, while booming metros will only contribute to high demand competing over low supply.

Virginia’s Baby Boomers are booming into their golden years.

Unsurprisingly, the age cohort with the largest gains since 2010 have been Virginians 55 and over, particularly the “young” seniors between 65 and 74. These baby boomers are more likely to live in small (one- to two-person) households and own their home.

Why it matters:

As the “age wave” crests, Virginia’s seniors will be seeking out smaller homes to downsize into (competing with younger first-time homebuyers), or looking to age-in-place, potentially throughout larger suburban homes that are car-dependent and costly to retrofit for accessibility. 

Millennials are having a harder time moving out on their own.

From 2015 to 2019, the number of adult Virginians still living with their parents increased nearly 5 percent. This trend was most significant in smaller metro markets (8 percent) and present throughout the urban crescent (4.8 percent), but not a factor in rural areas (-0.4 percent).

Why it matters:

This stunted household growth likely reflects the housing affordability challenges millennials face, particularly those with lower-wage jobs and high student debt.

Virginia continues to become more diverse.

People of color are an increasingly larger share of the population, especially throughout the urban crescent and smaller metro markets. Much of this trend can be attributed to three factors: an expanding Asian population, a major recent increase in the number of persons identifying as multiracial (or a race other than white, Black, or Asian), and strong growth among Hispanic households in every part of the Commonwealth.

Why it matters:

Higher racial and ethnic diversity across Virginia means housing needs and preferences will also vary more. Likewise, community planning efforts around housing and land use will need to engage these groups, which have been historically excluded from such decision making.

Coming up next time

In the next edition of this series, we’ll dive into the second chapter of the research and findings section—the economic trends in Virginia influencing housing opportunities.

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