The silhouette of a small rural house against an orange sunset background

How housing went from a rural advantage to a top challenge

You’ve probably noticed, but housing is a top challenge in most rural communities and small towns.

That makes it hard to remember that back around 2013, cheap housing was a key draw of new residents to rural places, according to Ben Winchester from University of Minnesota and others.

But by 2019, lack of housing was in the top 3 on our Survey of Rural Challenges. In 2021 and 2023 it was the #1 top challenge.

What happened? OK, that’s a big question. But let’s focus a bit.

It takes more houses to hold the same number of people because fewer people live in each house. One and two person houses are the majority, at least in America, architect Allison Thurmond Quinlan said.

The product the market needs is not the product the market knows how to produce, Allison said. There are more 5 bedroom houses in America than 1 bedroom because bigger houses are what builders know and what the rules of planning, zoning and lending favor.

Raquel Taylor and Anuradha Choudhary from University of Nebraska-Lincoln went through a lot of studies on rural housing issues, and noted these additional complicating factors:

  • Scarcity leaves low income people out. 
  • Dilapidation, blight, distance. 
  • Hard to access resources and help. 
  • Lack of planning and zoning inhibits building. 

There are no Best Practices that work everywhere to solve all these housing challenges, but there is a Best Mindset. Here are two ways you can develop that Best Mindset:

You can find practical steps to try right away in our video/audio Improving Rural Housing. It’s US$9.

Join Deb Brown, Ben Winchester and me for a no-charge webinar called Rural Housing Trends to share new stories and answer some of your specific housing questions. It will be live November 6, 2023, and we will share the recording.

Keep shaping the future of your town,