Suburban Apartment Renters Shifting Slightly Away from Vehicle Ownership
As apartment developments find new takers in the suburban areas of the largest US metros and regional transit connectivity continues to improve, more small building households are beginning to give up cars.
Car Ownership Shares in Apartment Buildings
A decade ago, apartment living exclusively conjured images of dense urban centers. Suburban areas have recently become more attractive to potential renters looking for lower rents, better schools and more space.
The choice to move farther away from urban core employment centers also means longer commutes and the need for personal mobility, predominantly through the use of cars.
However, the recent interest in apartment development has focused on areas in close proximity to existing and expanding regional public transportation hubs (transit-oriented development). This means that suburban apartment renters are also likely to own fewer cars going forward.
This change is beginning to show up in the data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2015.
As shown below, vehicle ownership rates remain high in suburban areas due to the factors referenced above. However, these same locations are also showing a shift toward fewer cars (see the second chart further down the page).
Nearly 85% of all households in suburban areas owned a vehicle in 2015. Nearly 30% owned two or more cars. Car ownership was only about 66% in urban areas.
For background comparison, it is also helpful to remember that vehicle ownership rates are skewed to more cars across all households. For homeowners with drive ways and garages, there are fewer hindrances to car ownership. Nearly 53% of all households in the Top 15 metros had two or more cars.
Small Building Households Shifting Slightly
While car ownership rates are relatively higher in suburban areas, these locations are also witnessing an increase in households not owning vehicles at an annual rate of 1%. In urban areas, the reverse was surprisingly true.
The data also shows that households owning just one car grew at a lower annual rate of 4% in suburban areas, compared to 5% in the urban core.
However, suburban areas are also witnessing an increase in households with two or more vehicles, keeping consistent with the historical norm.
For small property developers and managers, the coming together of transit connectivity and greater unit space, could translate into greater renter demand with fewer cars in the future.