Rutgers economists: ‘Renter nation’ will continue to grow

NEW BRUNSWICK – Expect New Jersey to be less suburban and less dominant with single-family homes, as a “renter nation” continues to grow.

That was just one of the forecasts by economist James Hughes, dean of Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School, who said the economic conditions are behind the shift.

He said to expect a modest recovery for the next several years, as the state’s demographics continue their seismic shift, with the new generation straying from the suburban, single-family home existence to a more renter-driven, less car-driven lifestyle.

“This suburban legacy is now fading into history,” he said at an economic summit put together by the New Jersey League of Municipalities Educational Foundation.

He said it will be around 2015 when the number of jobs in New Jersey returns to pre-recession levels and about 2018 when the unemployment rate returns to pre-recession levels.

What’s clear is that future New Jersey residents will be fundamentally different from Baby Boom-era residents’ preferences.

During the Baby Boom (the period between 1946 to 1964), when there was a huge population growth, Hughes said many Levittown-style municipalities developed, dominated by tract housing. Some 1,000 homes each were built for 1,000 consecutive weeks.

But in recent years, there has been a shift away from suburban office parks, as shown by high vacancy rates, and younger residents (known as the “Echo-Boomers” in demographic circles) are not driving as much. Some 26 percent of Echo-Boomers, who were born between 1977 and 1995, lack driver’s licenses.

New Jersey is also expected to become more diverse. He said the state already has the third largest foreign-born population in the country.

The higher-density, less-suburban preferences of the younger residents is likely to be felt by towns statewide.

“No municipality will be immune to those ramifications.”

Rutgers economists: ‘Renter nation’ will continue to grow