Condos & townhomes vs. ‘space embrace’

A few weeks back, two articles in the local newspaper caught our eye, if only because they were a few days apart and both were about emerging trends within Inland Southern California’s housing market. And yet, they could not have been more diametrically opposed.

The first article shows the emerging trend — even here, in the suburbs of all suburbs — of condo and townhome projects (something sorely lacking in many areas of Southern California, particularly within the Inland region). The article highlights a number of such projects proposed for Inland Southern California.

More importantly, however, is that it also highlights the fact SoCal home builders have finally realized there’s “another” segment of the local home-buying market: young professionals and empty nesters. Many buyers from this segment aren’t interested in the latest, greatest McMansion tract home located within the latest and greatest far-flung suburb. In fact, most are looking for much smaller living spaces with little or no yards and/or a more urban landscape.

Urban planners say changing demographics, including the aging of the baby-boom generation and the proliferation of families with few or no children, have created demand for a low-maintenance lifestyle free of yardwork and close to stores, entertainment and jobs.

Among those expected to buy condominiums in downtown Riverside are professionals and government employees who would seize the opportunity to live within walking distance of their jobs.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – May 6, 2005

Though a few such condo projects have been proposed in the past couple of years in downtown Riverside, none have yet to materialize. Fortunately, after a few false starts, it appears one such project may in fact finally come to fruition as two former rivals recently announced their intentions to join together in building the winning bid. Hopefully, this one will actually make it beyond the planning stage.

The second article, however, couldn’t have been more different. It basically reaffirmed that the suburban tract home is still king in Southern California. Only nowadays the average tract home has grown considerably larger — nearing 3,000 sq. ft. There are various reasons for the seemingly large increase in new home sizes, but one can’t help but wonder — how much larger can they grow? Likewise, how much farther out on the horizon can they go?

Buyers say they’re trading up to make room for elderly parents, accommodate big-screen TVs and home offices, or prepare for the probability that their grown children will stay with them longer because of rising housing costs.

… “The trend now is the yards are getting smaller and the houses are getting bigger,” said David Hahn, Inland Empire division president for Centex Homes.

Riverside Press-Enterprise – May 8, 2005

Bottom line, the two articles point to the emerging diversity of the new home market within Inland Southern California, which is good. And although homes themselves are indeed growing larger, it’s gratifying to see that home builders are also finally recognizing there’s a market for more than just the traditional, single-family tract home.

(2024 Update: After a few early struggles, no less than five multi-story residential and/or mixed-use projects have been developed in downtown Riverside along Market Street and on the Main Street pedestrian mall, with two in particular standing out: Imperial Hardware Lofts (2018) and the Mark (2023).)


  • Riverside Press-Enterprise – Redevelopment: Resurgence in downtown living forecast (May 6) | Big Houses: Castles of their own (May 8)

Sources: Riverside Press-Enterprise (PE-20050506, PE-20050508)

2024 PAGE UPDATE: Added 2024 update; added newspaper citation/insert; made minor grammar fixes and added minor context/clarification; removed image; removed outdated links to newspaper articles.

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