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'End of suburbia' may nearly be upon us: Sam Zell

Tuesday, 8 Oct 2013 | 11:36 AM ET
Sam Zell on the death of the suburbs
Tuesday, 8 Oct 2013 | 8:07 AM ET
Billionaire real estate mogul Sam Zell told CNBC that if the nation's big cities fixed their schools, there would be little reason for people to move to suburbia.

Young people shunning the suburbs in favor of the hustle and bustle of city life are leading the charge in the "reurbanization of America," real estate mogul Sam Zell told CNBC on Tuesday.

"You're drawing all the young people in America to these 24/7 cities. The last thing they want to do is live in the suburbs," Zell said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "In that respect, you're increasing demand for housing in the urban markets."

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The demand for the suburban lifestyle had been driven mainly by safety and schools, he said. "If you wanted to see the end of suburbia, all you'd need to do is make the school systems in the cities triple-A and why would anybody live in the suburbs," Zell said.

One of the byproducts of people moving to cities is soaring demand for apartments. "We are seeing 96 percent occupancy," said Zell—who's chairman of the real estate investment trust Equity Residential, one of the largest apartment groups in the country. Of the 18,000 units the REIT manages in New York City, Zell estimated 45 percent are occupied by just one person.

"It's probably going to happen here in New York first," he said. "You're going to see 300-square-foot apartments, directly related to that one person wanting to live alone—and saying, 'I'll give up space for privacy.'"

By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC.

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