The place we call home dictates so much of the rest of our lives—not least of which is the amount of money available for the rest of life’s necessities and pleasures. In the broader context of a community, the availability, condition, location, and price of housing also set a foundation for growth and prosperity. If people cannot find a home suitable for their desired standard of living, within a reasonable distance of workplaces, services, and entertainment—and leaving enough money in their budget to enjoy their lives—the logical choice for them is to take their talents to a community where the housing stock and job market meet those needs. From students to retirees, and across income levels and nationalities, people make this same basic cost/benefit calculation when choosing where to invest their precious time and talents.

In this issue, we explore some of the ways land use professionals around the world are coming up with new choices for housing that will help people attain the lifestyle they want—and help communities attract and retain a vibrant population. Beginning on page 43, Stockton Williams, executive director of the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing, examines one burgeoning approach to rebalancing a community’s stock of already-developed real estate—converting excess office space into sorely needed housing. While such conversions offer a tantalizing opportunity to address two real estate problems with one stroke, not every property lends itself to such a conversion, whether because the building is located where people don’t want to live, or because its structure does not lend itself to an affordable transformation. But as urban populations grow—and 21st-century technologies and trends decrease the demand for offices built for the age of neckties, telephones, and typewriters—the conversion of office space to residences is a trend that is likely to grow.

Technology also is driving change within the residence. In “Bringing Flexibility Home,” beginning on page 59, Jeffrey Spivak presents design solutions that carve out more private areas within open-plan homes to allow more privacy for people using personal electronics, or to shrink or expand individual rooms to allow the same square footage to perform multiple functions.

And beginning on page 44, members of ULI’s Student Housing Council discuss what university administrators and college students are looking for in student housing. Their insights are noteworthy beyond college towns because the choices available to students in their formative years will shape their expectations and demands for housing in the years and decades after their graduation.

This issue of Urban Land also presents highlights from ULI’s Asia Pacific Summit, held in mid-June in Shanghai. The event attracted the very top private sector and government land use professionals from across the Asia Pacific region. Though the region may be vast, these real estate leaders confront a similar challenge: how to manage the ceaseless migration of populations to urban areas in a way that offers people safe and pleasant lifestyles, efficient transportation, and access to parks, services, and clean air and water. This is a challenge facing land use professionals across the globe.

We welcome your insights—and questions—on these and other topics. You can share your thoughts by email to or post them directly to the comments section after individual articles posted in the online magazine,

Elizabeth Razzi
Editor in Chief