Empty houses are depressing. I know everyone has been concentrating on the shortage of housing, but it wasn’t so long ago that vacancies were blight problems. There’s rural abandonment and urban board-ups- but they both cause neighboring properties to suffer.
For decades younger people left small-town communities as soon as they could, looking for adventure and employment in major metropolitan areas. Quaint brick main streets became ghost-like and there was a lot of gnashing of teeth that only the elderly would remain on all the Oak, Elm, and Division streets of small-town America. This trend has changed. Although the statistics show that young adults (between 25 and 29 years of age) relocated to urban centers, the trend is reversed for 30-to 34-year-olds.
The migration of couples back to rural areas in their young family years must include the availability of adequate housing at more affordable prices. At some point, people started to realize that small towns were stitched together by sidewalks tunneled by the foliage of old-growth trees. And that they could afford the beautiful craftsman with an arched front door and amazing built-ins.
With the expansion of working from home arrangements, I’m sure the trend back to rural communities will continue. Even though the schools are often not as high test as metro schools, and the availability of specialty stores and restaurants is lacking, families live an easier life further away from the hustle of urban commotion.
Trends are always in flux. I imagine that keeping track of housing stock and whether it is in use would feature in policy conversations. In the days of Anthony Downs, the concern was around the age of housing. This seems secondary to its occupancy.