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Urban Dwellers Are Dissatisfied with Housing Options

Urban Dwellers Are Dissatisfied with Housing Options

“If we are bold and ambitious we can build a city that could be an example for many other cities in the world.” – Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities.

Is it safe to say that condo living is now the norm in Toronto? According to a new initiative from the City of Toronto, 70% of families in downtown Toronto live in high-rise condos. Vertical communities. Since the 60s, high-rises have been an affordable housing option for first-time buyers or downsizers. Today, that’s increasingly true for new and growing families. We feel it’s time to make sure developers are building in line with that we want. Market research from Environics Analytics has revealed that many urban dwellers are dissatisfied with their housing options.*

Here’s a snapshot of the research:

Of high-rise apartment and condo dwellers in the GTA,

The research from Environics, known as PRIZM5, identified 68 different urban dweller lifestyles. While some of the lifestyles seemed to overlap, there were three that stood out because of their current and future impact on housing development.

Emptying Nests – High-income, older, mature suburban residents. Kids have left home. They have an empty house. These are the most likely candidates to downsize. This group represents the growing demand for affordable units that are connected to urban amenities and community culture.

Urban Digerati – Middle to high-income, younger, well-educated, living mostly in the downtown core areas like Liberty Village and Cityplace. These condo dwellers are often single and likely renting. Smaller units are fine for them right now, including living with roommates, but that is likely to change.

New World Symphony – Middle income, younger, multi-cultural, found all over the GTA, but also concentrated along GO Transit lines. Compared to the Urban Digerati, these dwellers are more likely to own.

"There is still the assumption that buyers will start with a condo in Toronto as a first purchase, and then eventually buy a larger unit or move to the suburbs."

The Urban Digerati and the New World Symphony groups put a demographic face on the increasing demand for affordable, family-friendly housing. They are numerous, urban, and on the cusp of marriage and children. Together, these three lifestyle groups represent the segments who will most impact future housing development demand.

Condo shoppers aren’t happy with what’s out there

Read any article in the Toronto Star about family-friendly condos and you’ll see the demand for more space for strollers, play areas for kids, and safety. Future development considerations will also need to think about being close to schools, parks, community-centres, and libraries. As it stands, the research revealed that urban dwellers are dissatisfied with what developers are building in Toronto. They are not addressing the needs of older residents, both in terms of accessibility and urban lifestyle. They are not planning for a younger buyer’s future. There is still the assumption that buyers will start with a condo in Toronto, as a first purchase, and then eventually buy a larger unit or move to the suburbs. But buying bigger or moving to the ‘burbs should be an option, not a rule. By 2026 there will be far less demand for bachelor and one-bedroom condos in downtown Toronto, as the millennial generation shifts to family-friendly housing. “Boomer” homeowners and buyers will be older residents, in the 65+ demographic. Buildings that promote bachelor and one-bedroom units, with lounge and party room amenities, rooftop BBQs, movie-theatres, etc, are likely to see their projects fall out of demand as urban dweller demographics shift. Developers should build condos and apartments that embrace the growth and change of their residents' lifestyle. Build units for singles, couples, and young families that can grow into a building, into the amenities and into the neighbourhood, and create a sense of home. Not a starter-home, but a full home in a vibrant, urban environment. Be bold, be ambitious. Are you moving into a new phase of life and shopping for a condo that fits it? Share your experience and thoughts on living in Toronto.
*A summary of the market research by Environics Analytics was presented at BILD's High-Rise Forum: Who is the Urban Dweller on October 6, 2017.