Urbanism Next
University of OregonUniversity of Oregon


What are the opportunities to increase housing through infill? Will people locate in cities, or move farther out in the suburbs?


What is driving change?

Change in Ease of Travel

The average commute time in the U.S. is approximately 26 minutes each direction per day. Although this number has remained fairly consistent in recent years, this might change with the deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) since they may allow commuters to shift their use of time from driving to a range of other activities. It is conceivable that individuals may be willing to travel farther distances for work if travel time gains utility and is not seen as a lost part of the day.

Changes in Goods & Meal Delivery

The movement of goods has been changing considerably as household demand for freight has grown. It is estimated that U.S. per capita rate of deliveries remained relatively constant from 1963 to 2009. With the growth of e-commerce, however, it increased considerably between 2009 and 2017 and could double by 2023. Consumers can also easily arrange to have groceries and prepared meals delivered directly to their homes via mobile apps. The ease of online ordering may impact residential housing preferences moving forward.

Change in Parking Demand

Our past and current reliance on single occupancy automobiles for transportation has had a strong impact on land use patterns and the amount of land we use for parking. The change in parking demand due to transportation network companies (TNCs) and eventually autonomous vehicles (AVs) could drastically impact zoning and development regulations and reshape our land use patterns by shifting where we store vehicles (parking lots and curb space), and how much land we use for automobile-oriented functions.

Future Changes

Aerial view of streets going through a suburban neighborhood

Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash

What Could Happen?

  • Decreased demand for parking via the deployment of AVs may free up space for redevelopment in urban areas. This may create new space for residential development on land currently occupied by parking.
  • E-commerce could allow new housing developments to be located almost anywhere. With the maturation of e-commerce, houses are increasingly able to surpass the need for nearby shopping and grocery centers. As a result, housing could become lower-density if people decide to live in suburban or rural areas outside of the city, or higher-density if people gravitate toward urban areas that previously lacked the goods and services capacity to support a large population.
  • The ease of travel that AVs may provide combined with e-commerce could impact residential preferences. In particular, people could choose to live further from workplaces, retail, or other amenities if physical proximity to these locations becomes less essential. People may opt for lower-density land at the edge of cities, encouraging new housing development in previously undeveloped areas.
Aerial view of apartment high-rise buildings next to a pool on one side and a city street on the other

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash


  • There is an oversupply of parking but a shortage of housing in many places. In the United States, it is estimated that the average car is parked 95% of the time, and while estimates of the total number of parking spots differ, they generally agree that the supply of parking exceeds demand. In 2018, one researcher used a combination of data sources, including satellite data, to calculate exactly how many parking spaces exist in five United States cities—New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Des Moines, IA; and Jackson, WY—and found that only in New York City were there more homes than parking spaces. Seattle, however, averages more than five spaces per household and Jackson averages more than 27 spaces per household. According to a separate study of Los Angeles County, an estimated 14% of incorporated land is used for parking. At the same time, housing demand is greater than availability in many areas. 
  • Cities—recognizing that parking is overbuilt and underpriced—are updating policies to encourage redevelopment. Cities such as San Francisco, Houston, Minneapolis, and Buffalo, New York have relaxed minimum parking requirements or eliminated them entirely. Parking spaces, especially in structured parking garages, are expensive to build, which drives up the cost of housing. By reducing or eliminating parking requirements, developers are able to build new housing with fewer parking spots, or sometimes none at all.
  • While urban populations have continued growing, suburban and exurban areas are also seeing growth. The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000 to 2017 and found that while growth in suburban and exurban areas fell between 2008 and 2012, it has since been steadily on the rise. Urban core areas have seen the opposite trend, with growth increasing during the Great Recession but decreasing in the past few years.

Quick facts

Si aliae qui ommolenet que prati aut eossitae optatus daepell uptatur andante comni idebit quid moluptio te am quat facculparum recaecte.

  • While urban areas have seen their population growth decline, suburban and exurban areas have been seen increasing population growth since 2012.
  • Most major cities in the United States have more parking than housing, despite parking supply exceeding demand and housing demand exceeding supply.

What to do

Si aliae qui ommolenet que prati aut eossitae optatus daepell uptatur andante comni idebit quid moluptio te am quat facculparum recaecte.

Not sure where to start? Below are four What to Do pages that we think are especially relevant to Housing:

More about what to do »


Policies, pilots, and approaches

Communication tools

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