How to Keep Young Families from Fleeing to the Suburbs

Millennials are loving their center cities these days, with their lofts and bars and yoga studios. But what happens when Millennials start to have families and don't quite fit, physically or culturally, into city life anymore?

2 minute read

July 3, 2015, 1:00 PM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310

Children Playing

Lessadar / Shutterstock

For all the effort that has gone into making cities attractive to young residents, far less effort has been spent on the question of how to keep them. This issue motivated an extended research project by urban planner and architectural designer Sarah Snider Kommpa. Kommpa recently completed a tour of 11 cities in which she tried to discern the urban-to-suburban migration patterns and to compile recommendations for how cities can remain attractive once middle-class Millennials become parents. She summarized her work in “Downtown Families: Discovering How Cities Support Urban Family Living”

Here are excerpts from Kommpa's Q&A with Next City's Alexis Stephens: 

"Upper-class families with kids can choose to live in the city regardless and there’s a breaking point there. If you can afford private school and live downtown, then you can do that and that doesn’t matter. On the other end of the spectrum, folks living in subsidized housing don’t have a lot of choice about where to send their kids to school — depending on how the local district does choice, whether it is neighborhood-based schooling or open enrollment....Certainly some families are going to say, 'I’m going to move where I know the school system is good,' but there are a lot of parents getting involved in more urban schools to change that from the bottom up. That’s one of the trends that I saw while traveling."

"From a developer’s perspective, they can get more per square foot for smaller units than they can for larger units. Unfortunately when folks go in and design their buildings, they’re using market studies that are a few years old. They’re not thinking long-term about retaining those renters when they get married and have kids."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 in Next City

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Acela train at Wilmington station in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Passenger Rail Revival Is Here

For the first time in decades, multiple rail projects are moving forward that could have a transformative impact on train travel in the United States.

May 21, 2024 - Route Fifty

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.