Navigating a sea change on land use
"They're going to radically transform housing in the United States," he said.
The land development expert from PlaceMakers, a national consulting firm, will describe the radical changes coming in land use at a public meeting Sept. 11 at the St. Joseph County Public Library in downtown South Bend.
The changes are the result of the millennial generation seeking its own lifestyle in urban settings, Norris explained.
"They're wanting to live in downtowns. Previous generations didn't have that preference anywhere close to that degree. The older generations rejected a lot of downtown living."
Quality of life, he said, trumps even job opportunities.
"The younger generation chooses the place before they choose the job," he said. "It never used to be that way. People 40 and over talk about jobs. Younger people talk about where to live."
The shift is, at least partly, a typical intergenerational differentiation, Norris explained. Children brought up in large families in small homes in the 1950s and 1960s wanted large, suburban homes even though they had fewer children on average. Now their children want something different.
"A lot of people want what they didn't have growing up," he said. "This generation, growing up in a lifestyle radically different, wants something different."
Their grandparents, faced with the limits of car-dependent suburban life as their driving skills wane, are also catching on.
" 'I don't want to be held hostage to my car -- I need to live in a downtown setting,' " explained Norris, whose parents are 80.
"My parents used to make fun of what I do. They live in a downtown now. They can walk home after having as many drinks as they want at the nice restaurant down the street."
The National Association of Realtors is promoting Norris' work in order to boost Realtors' engagement with the trends.
"The National Association of Realtors, in general, feels that the Realtors don't take an active enough role in the development of their community," Norris said. "They are essentially the ones who are ambassadors for the city, especially in a place like South Bend where people are coming in and going out.
"They'd like to see the local Realtors more empowered on growth issues and more empowered to get involved."
Jim Dunfee, of Weichert Realtors, said engaging Realtors in a comprehensive planning process will pay big benefits.
"I feel Realtors represent the pulse of a community," he said. "We are the ambassadors, because when people come to this town or are even considering it, we're their first entree into the city. I think we're a great sounding board that's usually eliminated from the process.
"It's something that's so pertinent to what we're going through. Our downtown is on the cusp of maybe being able to go a long ways with some residential development."
"There are lots of conversations going on in the city about economic development," said Sue Solmos, South Bend's residential marketing specialist. "Economic development also means homes and housing."
Realtors alert to the different goals can engage prospective buyers more effectively, Norris said.
"They sell neighborhoods before they sell homes," he said. "Nobody says, 'I want this house and I don't care where it is.' "
Younger buyers will want more information than square footage, granite countertops and monthly mortgage payments, he explained. For example, data from a website such as walkscore.com, which identifies amenities within walking distance of a neighborhood, could show up on an MLS listing sheet.
Homeowners also pay almost as much for transportation as for housing -- 17 percent of their income compared with 20 percent -- and average transportation costs, affected by walkability, bikeability and public transit access, could be included.
Inclusion of such amenities could boost interest in downtown living, leveraging the area's famous affordability and, among other things, perhaps enticing University of Notre Dame graduates to settle here, Norris said.
"You have a value proposition that only needs to be bolstered by a certain level of coolness," he said.