300BayAreaA new report from the Urban Land Institute, Bay Area in 2015, suggests that the San Francisco metropolitan region is at risk of losing millennials in the years ahead because high housing costs are making them increasingly skeptical about their ability to eventually move into homes in neighborhoods with the high livability attributes they desire.

The report, released at ULI’s 2015 Fall Meeting in San Francisco, finds that 74 percent of millennials living in the Greater Bay Area are considering moving over the next five years, although housing affordability concerns suggest that they will be more apt to move away from the area than within it. Just 24 percent are very confident that they will be able to own or rent their desired home in five years—a dramatically lower percentage than members of generation X, 38 percent of whom voiced strong confidence in their ability to move up, and baby boomers, at 49 percent.

Another possible indicator of housing affordability challenges for the Bay Area’s youngest adults: whereas 34 percent of millennials currently live in apartments—compared with 21 percent of gen Xers and 11 percent of baby boomers—an equal percentage of millennials expects to be living in apartments in the future, compared with just 11 percent of gen Xers and 8 percent of baby boomers.

Bay Area in 2015 is based on a survey of 701 adults in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area conducted in February 2015 as a companion to a national survey conducted for ULI’s America in 2015 report, which was released last spring. Survey responses are categorized by generation—millennials, generation X, baby boomers, war babies, and the silent generation—as well as by ethnicity, income, and location (North Bay, the five-county Bay Area, and South Bay). The low expectations of millennials in the Greater Bay Area in terms of moving up are in stark contrast with those of U.S. millennials as a whole, 52 percent of whom said they anticipate being able to purchase or rent their desired housing in five years.

Across the Bay Area’s submarkets, one-third of the respondents from the South Bay Area—which has the largest number of millennials—say they are not satisfied with their local housing options.

The report also shows that among the generations, millennials in the Greater Bay Area place the highest priority on health-related attributes, including air and water quality, access to public transportation, and bike lanes. Yet, they are the least likely of the generations to have easy access to safe places for outdoor physical activity and active transportation systems such as bike lanes.

The findings of Bay Area in 2015 should serve as a wakeup call—not just for the region’s technology industry with its millennial-heavy employment base, but for how San Francisco grows for the future, said Patrick L. Phillips, ULI global chief executive officer.

“Millennials make up the largest, most diverse generation in our history, and they will have an enormous impact on the success of our cities. San Francisco needs to consider how declining housing affordability is affecting the high quality of life it is seeking to provide for all residents, including this powerful group,” he said. “This means placing a strong emphasis on providing housing for a mix of incomes and generations and investing in development patterns to further reduce automobile dependence and promote health and wellness.”

Among other findings in the report:

  • Eighty-seven percent of all Bay Area residents say that the quality of the environment, including air and water quality, is a top or high priority when choosing where to live; 78 percent say the availability of fresh, healthy food is a top or high priority.
  • Sixty-three percent of Bay Area residents rate green space and parks as a top or high priority, while less than half—42 percent—place having private yard space as a top or high priority, indicating that access to shared open space is a highly valued urban amenity throughout the region.
  • Bay Area residents are more likely than U.S. residents as a whole to prefer an automobile-optional lifestyle. Sixty-eight percent rate walkability, including pedestrian-friendly features, as a top or high priority, compared with 50 percent of all Americans. Half of Bay Area residents say the convenience of public transportation would be a top or high priority when deciding on a new home, compared with 32 percent of all Americans.
  • Twenty-nine percent of Bay Area residents say they walk or bike to a destination nearly every day, and half believe their neighborhoods need more bike lanes. The desire for more bike lanes was strongest among South Bay residents (62 percent).

“This report shows that residents throughout the Bay Area clearly prefer alternatives to the automobile to get around in their communities,” Phillips said. “Making truly car-optional communities involves having access to supportive community infrastructure and neighborhood design, such as sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes, as well as having destinations that are easily reachable by walking, cycling, or using public transportation. Communities that support these ‘people-first’ strategies will have a competitive edge in terms of livability, prosperity, and sustainability.”

Bay Area in 2015: A ULI Survey of Views on Housing, Transportation, and Community in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area was prepared jointly by the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing and ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative in partnership with ULI San Francisco.