Hot markets for home development have spread out and inward since 1992.

Understanding the housing market during the last quarter century in greater Columbus rests on generations, from the baby boomers seeking quality of life while raising families in the suburbs to the millennials now rethinking the housing choices of their parents and grandparents.

Demands of the labor market also influenced housing in central Ohio.

Housing consultant Rob Vogt says the first wave of post-World War II babies started forming households in the ‘60s and ‘70s and filled apartments in the Hamilton Road, Morse Road and Georgesville Road corridors. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of these couples already had their first home and were in the market to get comfortable in the suburbs.

“Consumers hit their prime housing ages in their 40s and 50s, which is why so many upscale housing developments were getting built in the 1990s,” says Vogt, principal of Columbus-based Vogt Strategic Insights.

In a region lacking mountain views and ocean breezes, developers often build golf courses with tony clubs as an amenity to attract homebuyers. “It was all about baby boomers accumulating wealth and stimulating all of that upscale housing,” Vogt says. So developments such as Wedgewood, Little Turtle, Highland Lakes, New Albany and Heritage Lakes sprang up to meet the demand.

Corporate executives in these communities also pulled their businesses to the Interstate 270 Outerbelt and beyond, creating even more demand for housing for mid-level managers and support staff.

“The employers' decision-makers wanted to live in Muirfield, Worthington Hills, Westerville,” Vogt says, “and they located their businesses close to where they lived.”

The northern arc above Columbus became fertile ground as Delaware County reigned for years as the fastest-growing county in Ohio. Housing statistics for Delaware County show just 834 single-family permits pulled in 1992, the year Columbus CEO magazine started. That activity hit 2,164 by 1999 and peaked at 3,061 in 2000 before trailing off to 1,851 units in 2005; activity slumped by nearly 700 units in 2006 as a precursor to the global financial crisis and Great Recession. Single-family construction fell to a trough below 500 in 2009.

Host subdivisions for the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio's Parade of Homes showcase demonstrate the popularity of the northern arc for housing. Nine of the last 10 new home tours of top-end housing have taken place in Dublin and New Albany, with Dublin hosting five of the showcases and New Albany hosting four.

But the outward push has softened in recent post-recession years. In Delaware County, the number of single-family permits topped 1,000 in 2016 at 1,292 for the first time since 2006, when builders pulled 1,165 permits.

Vogt attributes this in part to a large percentage of millennials and others avoiding homeownership post-Great Recession and their desire to remain mobile as they consider moving closer to amenities that interest them in any given year. Many older couples past child-rearing duties also have increasingly chosen apartments because of the flexibility it affords to travel or, as they retire, spend winter in warmer, sunnier climates. Lifestyle choices also have made Downtown, the Short North, Olde Towne East and other urban neighborhoods such as Grandview and the mixed-income Weiland Park east of Ohio State University attractive to the younger set.

Columbus developer Ron Pizzuti set the pace when he delivered the first condo in his Miranova development on the southwest edge of Downtown at Mound and Short streets. As other developers began to show interest, then-Mayor Michael Coleman set a 10,000-residents goal for Downtown within a decade, fueled by generous tax abatements.

That goal has yet to get met even as developers emphasized apartments rather than condos in the wake of the Great Recession that had stymied many of the initial for-sale projects. Developers turned some of the condos into rentals and switched primarily to apartments in the last eight years. “The real return to the central city had less to do with city subsidies than the lifestyle preferences of the millennials,” Vogt says, “because the trend is national and not unique to Columbus.”

Developer Borror Properties built in the suburbs as Dominion Homes and in the last few years responded to the changing market by joining long-term urban builders like the Wood Cos, Kevin Lykens, Wagenbrenner Development, constructing apartments and condos in Italian Village and Victorian Village. And employers like Nationwide Insurance have answered by increasing employment in the core city.

“The employees are dictating where they want to live for lifestyle choices,” Vogt says, “and the employers are following where the employees want to live.”

The surge of apartments in the central city is joined by mixed-use projects of Crawford Hoying Development Partners' Bridge Park in Dublin and the Polaris Centers of Commerce. Another 250 apartments are also planned around Easton Town Center.

Projected growth is so robust that the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission in 2016 doubled its 2014 estimates for regional population growth by 2050 from 500,000 new residents to one million. MORPC Executive Director William Murdock explained at the time, “When we looked at the results of the last five years, it's pretty interesting and pretty stunning. The growth is happening faster than we thought.”

Vogt says the projected influx of new residents attracted to central Ohio's surging economy in the next several years should support more apartments and single-family homes. He also notes rental housing construction remains below the torrid pace of 1999 through 2003, saying, “We are not yet at the point of saturation.”

Brian Ball is a freelance writer.

Our look-back stories in 10 key sectors show the only constant of the past quarter century has been tremendous growth and change.