Young People Want Apartments, Not Houses; iPhones, Not Cars

A new study by GWL Realty Advisors (Canada) comes to some interesting conclusions.

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At a Glance

Economic, demographic and social shifts are increasing the popularity of multi-family living in Canada.

Specifically, the growth of the knowledge economy, which tends to be based in dense urban areas, combined with an increased interest in consuming experiences (rather than focusing on acquiring consumer goods) has contributed to a growth in demand to live in amenity-rich neighbourhoods within a short commute of employment—and in apartment or condo buildings. The following are some of the reasons this shift will continue and even accelerate in the coming decades.

• Apartment and condominium dwelling is now often a desired choice of many urban residents when multi-family living offers a commute and amenity advantage.

• Increased educational attainment of women (who earn almost 60% of all Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees in the US and Canada) combined with increased female workforce participation has also contributed to rise of both the knowledge economy and of apartment and condominium living.

• Increasingly, families are choosing multi-residential living. With most families having no more than one or two children, a two bedroom apartment home can work well. Moreover, if both parents work, living in a low-maintenance home with a short commute allows for more family time.

• Buying a home (including a condo) in close proximity to employment and amenities is becoming increasingly expensive in comparison to renting. As a result expect more 25–45 year olds to be renters in the coming decades.

Other characteristics of Canada’s rental markets:

• Condominiums are not a threat to purpose-built apartment renting. In fact, they have contributed to making high rise apartment dwelling fashionable. Also, by increasing the density of neighbourhoods, condominiums have contributed to a growth in amenities. Cities where residents have the highest propensities to rent apartments also have the highest percentages of residents owning condominiums.

• Baby boomer and older generation empty nesters are not expected to sell their houses and rent apartments. They believe in ownership having typically owned all their lives. If they wish to downsize and urbanize, they will most frequently buy condos.

• Supply has not kept up with demand for purpose-built apartments in recent decades. Canadian cities with growing, dynamic knowledge- and experience-based economies already have a rental housing shortage. These cities attract newcomers by the tens of thousands annually, who need to rent homes. The high rental rates and low vacancy rates in places like Vancouver and Toronto (and soon Calgary again too) illustrate that demand exceeds supply.

There is a growing dialogue in Canada’s cities about housing issues, particularly the need for more purpose-built rental accommodation. This report offers fresh and forward-looking perspectives on apartment living in Canada, designed to inform stakeholders—including building owners, developers, government, and renters—in their decision making.


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