If Baton Rouge were to attract and retain a wide variety of residents, it would need a wide variety of housing.
That’s the finding by Future BR, the city’s update of its comprehensive plan. The plan includes an entire section dedicated to housing and the need for more “compact neighborhoods” that accommodate both attached townhomes and apartments, but also small cottage-style homes on small lots.
It’s anticipated that the demand for these infill and “new urbanist” style housing developments could make up about 39 percent of the number of new units built in the future, according to the plan.
“If you look at the places that are really vibrant, they’ve made a lot of hay out of the increasing diversity of the housing market,” said John Fregonese, of the firm Fregonese and Associates, the lead consultant on the Future BR project. “People want to live in a vibrant city district - maybe a loft.
“A lot of people that are retiring don’t want a big yard, they don’t want to be far away from stuff, they want to have more access,” he added. “So there’s this whole opportunity for housing that’s completely untapped here in Baton Rouge.”
This is a trend already showing some traction in Baton Rouge, said one real estate agent with some 30 years of experience in the Baton Rouge market.
“A lot of the baby boomers, really, they want to be free to travel and do what they want to and not be bothered with the big yard. They just want a nice house,” said Dee Mather-Muenzler, an agent with ReMax First. “And I’m finding that with the young professionals also, they don’t have the time to deal with the yard. And they want a nice house, good quality, close to shopping.”
To be sure, the traditional single-family suburban home will always have a place in the Baton Rouge housing market, Fregonese said. But if Baton Rouge wants to set itself apart from neighboring parishes that have seen spectacular population growth in the last decade, it should put in place planning principles that encourage and make it easier to build urban, walkable neighborhoods attractive to a middle-class market.
“The fact of the matter is Baton Rouge needs to attract more people to live here,” Fregonese told a room of about 50 people gathered at the Old State Capitol on Wednesday morning to officially release the entire 430-page document known as the “operational guide” for planning development in Baton Rouge for the next 20 years and beyond. The plan also addresses other areas like transportation and land uses.
By 2030, the Future BR plan anticipates Baton Rouge will gain 48,000 households, with 39 percent of those in the age 65 and older demographic. This group has expressed a desire for walkable neighborhoods near health and other services. The second-largest household group is expected to be the 25- to 44-year-old demographic, making up 32 percent of the new household market. This group has expressed a desire for downtown, inner-city and walkable neighborhoods that include apartments, mixed-use residential and single-family homes, according to the plan. The findings are the result of surveys filled out by 5,000 residents.
“But the thing that I’m seeing more than anything is how the older couples are leaving their housing and moving into condos or assisted-living facilities,” said Mayor-President Kip Holden after the Future BR announcement Wednesday. “And therefore we’re watching the trend now for more condos and more assisted-living developments.”