Gen Y changes

Wave the tiny flag.

Wave the tiny flag.

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

So if change is slow, even in these times of climate crises, small victories still call for the waving of little flags.

For instance, according to a recent study, Generation Y is eschewing Mom and Dad’s desire for living in the burbs, preferring—in droves—smaller homes in walkable communities near the workplace. What’s more, there’s a stated preference for living car-free—something Mom and Dad couldn’t have fathomed.

Environmentally speaking, this is fabulous—and more than half surveyed said that meeting “certain green objectives” in home and community design was key in home-purchasing decisions. Dunno what exactly these objectives are, but they point in a better direction.

And yet, as in all things, gray is the national color, and we wave the little flag, not the big one. According to developers’ surveys, this same study from the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah said 43 percent of Americans still prefer big suburban homes, even if the rest don’t, which means that America has roughly 40 million big homes no one wants.

The Urban Land Institute goes further in a report issued late in 2011. Of the 80 million plus Gen Y-ers, ULI states that more than half of them would trade lot size for living closer to work, a third of them will pay more to be able to walk to shops, work and entertainment (and a similar percentage of families with kids would swap out lot size for such livability). Again, wave the little flag, not the big one: Extending this concept to 2035, ULI estimates Sacramento will be overbuilt by about 193,000 “conventional lot” homes and be short, by about the same number, of meeting the demand for “small lot” homes.

Maybe those bigger homes will become multiresidential units. Or maybe they make a great place to practice your tagging skills, like in Elk Grove. Still, Auntie Ruth hopes somebody who’s good with hammers and saws and zoning and the thorny politics of development is paying heed. Mama Earth implores you.

And hooray for Generation Y. Keep on doing this whole common-sense thing, and try not to sound too snide when talking to the folks. It just pisses ’em off.