Monday, April 04, 2011

The Aging of Housing

The average household lives in a housing unit with a median age of 35 years. In other words, half the nation's occupied housing units were built in 1974 or earlier and half were built after that year, according to the 2009 American Housing Survey.

The nation's housing stock renews slowly. Very slowly. And the rate of renewal is slowing, too. In 1999, the median age of the nation's occupied housing units was 30 years, with half built in 1969 or before and half after that year. In 1989, the median age of occupied housing units was 26 years, with 1963 the median year of construction. Despite the housing bubble and overbuilding in many parts of the country, the occupied housing stock is older today than it was ten or twenty years ago.

At the current rate of renewal, it will take more than 60 years before the houses being built in 2011 or later account for half the occupied housing units in the United States. Bottom line: If we want to see widespread housing innovation in our lifetimes--such as greater energy efficiency, digital home integration, and improved access to public services--then it must occur through rehabilitation of existing structures and communities rather than through new construction and developments.

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