Millennials are moving out of cities for a life in the suburbs.
Places like Prince William County are expected to benefit from the changes, but industry insiders disagree on what type of housing development will dominate the post-pandemic landscape.
“We’re seeing this trend from of working from home and we don’t believe this will slow down,” said Mark Ingrao, of the Northern Virginia Builders Association. “We’re seeing a trend in the market of people looking for more affordable housing, and we think this is an opportunity for Prince Wiliam County to provide the workforce housing that is needed for this area.”
Single-family homes with yards, home offices, and space to grow a family is what buyers are looking for a post-pandemic world, said Ingrao. It’s a far cry from the cramped apartments Real Estate agents say people are leaving.
But not all millennials want little boxes on the hillside, says Kingsley McAdam, of Buchannan Partners, which is developing Cannon Branch, a mixed-use development in Manassas. Two-over two condos, next to walkable areas lined with retail stores and restaurants are the future of the region.
In addition to Cannon Ridge, the Maryland firm also aims to build a new neighbrohood at the intersection of Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road called the Quartz District. More dense development like it is what’s needed there, and in the more rural western portion of the county where development is limtied to one home per 10 acres.
“If the [Board of County Supervisors] doesn’t allow some of these residential projects to move forward, people are going to leave for other areas,” said McAdam. He named Atlanta as one of the cities that has been successful in lurinbg away people from more expensive areas like the Washington, D.C. region.
“There needs to be a paradigm shift in local government,” added McAdam, who advocated for a campaign to educate elected leaders on the value of developing the rural area of the county.
Developers are pushing for cluster developments in western Prince William County – dense concentrations of homes with open space and parkland nearby. Proponents say that unlike suburban development of 70 years ago, where single-family homes were built on individual lots, these new neighborhoods take up less space and are more attractive.
Opponents of developing the rural area say it would lead to more suburban sprawl, would require taxpayers to shell out for more money for county services like fire and rescue and police service.
Ingrao and McAdam spoke during a virtual meeting held on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.