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For San Diego Millennials, deciding where to live isn’t as simple as staking out the hipster, uptown neighborhoods.

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Heeding the trends of their real estate choices can give us an idea how to plan for our region’s projected growth in population over the next few decades. Doing anything less would be a massive oversight by private industry and public policymakers alike.

Millennials, those currently between the ages of 18 and 35, made 31 percent of our city’s real estate purchases in 2014. If the job market continues to expand, and more young Americans can earn a living wage, that percentage will only grow.

Twenty-five percent of 2014 home purchases in Tierrasanta were made by Millennials in 2014. Tierrasanta is truly a suburban neighborhood, with a few grocery stores and small businesses. It serves primarily as a bedroom community for other commercial centers.

Compare that with North Park, where 40 percent of home purchases were by Millennials. North Park certainly is far more urban, with more services and entertainment options within walking distance.

So if we’re building for younger generations, what do we do? Should we favor urban centers that revolve around easy access to services and public transportation, or will the last century’s model of suburban America continue to be part of the American dream?

As Circulate SD’s Colin Parent pointed out and the local trends show, it’s not as black-and-white as urban vs. suburban, car vs. transit for Millennials.

Real estate agents and brokers hear the same reasons from their clients, of any age, when they move from an urban to a suburban area: They’re looking for safety, quality neighborhood schools and store options. Sometimes that means they sacrifice public transit access and walkability.

This in part explains why Millennials drive just as much as older generations: It’s often because they don’t have public transportation options available.

As we look at the future of our city’s growth, we can tap the current attitudes of consumers, not just statistics, to create communities that are walkable and safe, that provide easy access to services while minimizing commute times.

We can offer more affordable homes by increasing density the right way, and model our city around better access to good jobs, health care and so on.

We can’t afford to maintain a “if we build it, they will come” attitude in our region. Density without lifestyle will only provide shortsighted gains for developers. In 30 years, we’ll find ourselves in the same predicament we’ve been in for the last 10: beset with unattractive, overpriced housing options that don’t benefit San Diegans or provide our city with the communities we are capable of creating.

Justin DeCesare is a real estate broker and president of the Tierrasanta Community Council. He’s currently running for San Diego City Council. DeCesare’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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