Study finds population shift to suburbs: Is it a trend?

Remember when suburbia was a four-letter word? City life is where it was at — access to transit, outdoor cafes, vibrant street life. Especially over the last decade, the trend was urbanization, led by millennials, in places like Jersey City and Hoboken, which saw steady increases in population. But a new report from the Rutgers Bloustein School titled “The ‘Burbs’ Bounce Back” suggests that, in 2016, the population trends suggest that may be coming to an end. James Hughes is the study’s author.

“The absolute growth in the suburban ring that surrounds New York City, that surrounds Union, Hudson and Essex Counties in New Jersey, their population growth has been double or triple that that’s taking place in the urbanized core,” said Hughes.

The report identifies the urbanized core as the area immediately surrounding New York. In Jersey, that’s Hudson, Essex and Union. The suburban ring includes the dozen or so counties surrounding them, from Sussex to Monmouth.

In the period between 2010 and 2016, the region saw a population growth of almost 700,000, 74 percent of that came from urban areas, roughly 26 percent from the suburbs. But in 2016, the numbers were flipped. Only 38 percent of the growth came from cities, and almost 62 percent from the suburbs.

Hughes points to two factors that might explain the change. One, he says millennials in their 30s now have less of an aversion to owning cars and property and detached housing.

“Second factor is the success of our urban areas, such as the Hudson River waterfront, such as Brooklyn,” adds Hughes. “They’ve been so successful that prices have been pushed up to astronomical levels, so it’s almost an inhibitor now to growth.”

But, if you’re looking for a solid takeaway from the study, you’ll want to consider that the study looked at data for one year, hardly a trend, says Tim Evans, of New Jersey Future, a smart growth advocate.

“It’s something to keep an eye on, whether the demand is growing again in outlying places, but it could also be that the growth in the older, compact walkable areas is slowing down, it might be because we’re not able to add housing supply fast enough to keep up with the demand,” he says.

Also, the data show that population in Brooklyn was down in 2016, which will confirm what millennials in Jersey have been saying for a while now. Brooklyn — is so over.