Implications of Shifting Demographics on Housing Needs
Fayette Alliance partnered with other community stakeholders and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County government to commission a housing market demand study as part of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan update. To plan responsibly for our future growth, it is important to understand recent trends and demographic projections. The study projected our housing needs for the ten-year period 2015-2025.
Fayette County is a growing community. We have been growing at a consistent pace, welcoming approximately 20,000 additional people every five years. The housing study translated this projected growth into a need for approximately 22,780 additional housing units.
The primary findings from the housing study are as follows:
- We are on the brink of a massive demographic shift. Like the rest of the nation, our population is aging. Over the next decade and beyond, Lexington is projected to see a significant increase in the number of households headed by someone 65 or older. This fact has major implications for housing. Importantly, researchers agree that senior housing should be accessible to necessities and amenities and located in areas where seniors stay integrated into the community, not isolated from it.
- The second group projected to see the greatest growth is the 20-29 age range. Fayette County has been a heavy rental market for many years. The growth of this age group combined with the fact that the average age for a first-time home buyer is 32-35 indicates the need for a robust inventory of apartments and other rental homes.
- We need to diversify our housing stock if we are going to meet our most pressing housing needs. When asked by a councilmember for the biggest take away from the housing study, the study author stated: “You need to change significantly to a much more diverse housing product” (August 15, 2017 Council Work Session). According to the study, we need to increase our inventory of accessible, low maintenance types such condos, townhomes, duplexes, fourplexes and single-family detached homes on small lots.
- With respect to meeting our needs for affordable housing for working families and low-income citizens, the study suggests the need for both short and long-term solutions. According to the study, the short-term need is for rental units that are affordable to low income citizens. In the long-term, Lexington needs to focus on the challenges of affordable home ownership. Both the short and long-term solutions require strong, clear and committed policy at the local, state and federal levels.
- Lexington is a job hub for the region. In 2014, approximately 51% of people working in Fayette County lived outside Fayette County. However, the vast majority of commuters (31.4%) are coming from outside the Bluegrass region. While Lexington has experienced significant job growth in recent years, particularly in health care and educational services, other parts of the state have experienced job losses. This trend is not likely to change and should inform planning efforts moving forward.
In November of 2017, the Council adopted the Goals and Objectives of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. In recognition of our most pressing housing needs, one of the goals is to expand housing choices. Fayette Alliance looks forward to working together to create the policies necessary to achieve this critical goal.
To find out more, check out the full housing study and read our op-ed, published March 25, 2017 in the Lexington Herald Leader.