traditional "Ozzie and Harriet" nuclear family continues to
decline as a percentage of American households. Because the lending system
relies on recent housing type sales to establish value, builders and developers
find it difficult to finance new and innovative mixed-use building types.
As a result, the same housing options continue to be built. In many regional
markets this includes one type of garden apartment, one type of townhouse/condominium
and, of course, the ubiquitous detached single family suburban home.
Builders and developers tend to build more of what sold last year, and
are reluctant to take a risk on an unproven housing type that may be hard
to finance. This "producer-driven" system stands in contrast
to many "consumer-driven" industries that have recently re-engineered
themselves in response to customer demands.
Some economists and researchers are looking to the field of geodemographics
to expand the pool of "financeable" building types. This is
especially important in the case of more compact New Urbanism and "smart
Growth" housing types.
Geodemography is the practice of linking demographics to place. Leaders
in the discipline, such as the Claritas Corporation, have defined distinct
population "clusters" at
small geographic scales down to the Census block level
and profiled them according to interests, occupational orientations, incomes,
product choices and lifestyles. The icons at right illustrate some of