Two measures accurately predict county growth: education level and climate.

Nationwide, counties in which more than 21% of adults possess college degrees grew by 13%, compared to 3% in the least educated counties over the past decade. This is understandable, as counties with higher education levels are generally more productive and magnetically draw other educated people to them. The best jobs are there.

American counties with January temperatures averaging above 43 degrees grew over 9% during the last decade. Conversely, counties with January temperatures averaging below 22 degrees grew less than 2% over the past ten years.

Looking forward, prosperous communities will invest in education and other support facilities to nurture growth, including reforming zoning restrictions to meet high density housing needs, the crux of agglomeration and its resulting high-octane community advancement.

first tuesday take

As the U.S. has become a mobile society, people have inevitably flocked to warm-weather cities, especially in their later years. California’s pleasant year-round temperatures and its historically strong public higher education system are ingredients that make California a prime candidate for growth.

However, the Golden State’s rate of population growth, about 1% a year, has actually been weaker than the nation’s average over the past decade. So what’s going on?

Related article:

Golden state population trends

A state’s population trends are complex, with many factors like employment, immigration, birth and death rates intertwined. The number one factor for both population growth and a sustainable housing industry is jobs, all of which are immediately affected by zoning restrictions. One needs to live where he works, or work where he lives.  We all know where the good jobs are going to be located coming out of this Lesser Depression.

Urban centers often lag in development, victims of outdated planning, causing housing and businesses to be pushed out of the center and into the suburbs in an endless sprawl of houses, strip malls and traffic. Within flexibly zoned districts, buildings go up according to the needs of the city’s population and economy, rather than the wishes of a few wealthy citizens seeking to maintain the status quo.

Related article:

Age and education in the Golden State

City barred from imposing very low density restriction on residential parcel

Speaking of endless sprawl… growth is most effective when it occurs upward rather than out. As the next generation of homebuyers (Generation Y) comes of age, the real estate industry will have the best success in walkable, urban areas. Suburbs will become a fad from the past, as Gen Y leaves the subdivision lifestyle from their childhood and their parents soon follow.

Urban areas must loosen zoning restrictions to capitalize on this growth potential, opening the door to high rises of mixed use with multi-family housing. These dense, walkable cities near centers of education are perfectly fit for the predominantly sunny climate of California.

Sources are popping up to meet this rising walkability demand. Sites such as cater to the younger generation and offer house hunters walk scores based on the type and number of nearby amenities. Homes are ranked based on their proximity to services, like energy ratings for a home. Listing aggregators like Zillow use information from this site and others like it to display walk scores on properties they list.

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The fate of suburbia

first tuesday has long been a staunch advocate of looser zoning restrictions, as conservative not in my backyard (NIMBY) zoning (no changes, please) inevitably leads to new home construction shortages in which developers cannot meet demand. This deprivation leads quickly to skyrocketing housing prices in highly desirous areas. In order to both allow and keep up with growth, zoning restrictions must be relaxed to assist the needs of a healthy economy by providing housing as demanded – not strangling it into submission.

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Loosen the noose on urban density

Re: Human Capital Follows the Thermometer from the New York Times