This post is part of a series covering ULI Toronto’s Fall Symposium which took place November 2nd and 3rd at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The inaugural symposium, Emerging Trends and City Building, saw hundreds of industry professionals gather to be a part of the ongoing dialogue on the future of urban development.
On November 2nd, 2015, attendees packed a room at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for a panel on Millennials and their impact on the real estate industry. The panel was moderated by Micheline Bentley, Senior Manager of Talent and Business Development at Matrix Search Group, who was able to structure a thoughtful conversation between Michael Emory, President and CEO of Allied Properties REIT, Kendra FitzRandolph, Property Officer at the City of Toronto, Philip Preville, a Contributing Editor at Toronto Life, and Stockton Williams, Executive Director at the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing.
Same Community Feel, Different Location
Millennials prefer to live, work and play in a work-life blend community, described FitzRandolph, a Millennial herself. The urban core has become an ideal location for Millennials. To limit their commute time, Millennials have converged in an area where housing prices are costly and rising. This has resulted in an increase in rentals, as first time home buyer rates are at a low for Millennials. “It’s hard for Millennials to reconcile urban downtown with more home ownership,” said Williams.
Emory added that urban schools need to be redeveloped to accommodate the influx of Millennial families who reside in urban cores. Private development partnerships need to be created with governmental institutions to address this demand as more commercial and residential spaces are developed. Millennials have consciously chosen to live, work and play within urban centres. In the same way as the rise of the baby boomers 50 years ago led to an influx of more open spaces and the growth of suburbia, generational group values are again shaping real estate development. Preville suggested another option for Millennials to consider are sub-hubs like the cities of Peterborough and Hamilton where community is alive and well.
Authentic Living and Manufactured Spaces
As Millennials show a preference for urban living, they also want authentic living spaces, not manufactured ones. Preville sees retrofitting of the suburbs as a way to provide better amenities for Millennials. FitzRandolph on the other hand views faux-burbs as the Millennials’ version of suburban homestyle-family living where there is distance from the downtown core but not a disconnect. The commute is measured in foot, bike or transit travel, rather than car travel. This is all a part of the new goal of the Millennial that is “work-life blend”, she said.
Authentic living and working experiences are what Emory believes are important for spaces to succeed. Condo living — not to mention many urban spaces — can feel manufactured and forced at times. However, the desire to live an urban setting has provided an opportunity for developers to find ways to create authentic urban living spaces.
Technology Connects People
“Technology is changing everyone’s life, irrespective of their generation,” said Emory. The rise of secondary markets like Kitchener and Waterloo has aided the movement of tech corporations to locate to these areas. As FitzRandolph pointed out, technology leverages human connections and collaboration rather than isolates. While Preville mentioned that, at one point, people believed technology would lead to an end of urban core living, it’s clear that the opposite is true: technology has helped bring people together. Besides, remarked Preville, “there is no substitute for human proximity at the end of the day.”
Although there are differences based on age and demographics, there is a significant commonality that exists between generations. “I don’t think age matters at all anymore, it is about the sense of community and authenticity,” said Emory. Millennials are thought to hold different values than their predecessors, but as Bentley mentioned, despite some differences, perhaps all generations share similar values and are actually not so different. At the fundamental level, it is about the human experience.