Historians in North America will probably look back at the 20th century and coin it as the “century of the single family home.” It was a time where the dream of every young married couple was to buy a home with front and back yards to raise their children. The single family home was also where seniors wanted to live out their lives, kicking and screaming when their adult children suggested their home was too big and too much work to maintain. The single family home was everyone’s “castle.”
On the other hand, the 21st century is shaping up to be known s the “century of the condo” as more and more people - young and old - are choosing condo living. It became crystal clear when recently when visiting Seattle and seeing the multitude of condos being constructed in that city. It seemed like on every city centre block was a condo recently completed or under construction. While some were low and mid-rise, many were in the 40-storey range.
This got me reflecting on to recent visits to Chicago, Portland and Denver recalling they too had abundant of condo construction activity in their city center neighbourhoods. And we all know that Toronto and Vancouver can’t seem to build condos fast enough.
YUPPIEs & DINKs
It is no surprise that many 21st century young urban professionals (YUPPIEs) and double income no kids (DINKs) have adopted condo living as their preferred lifestyle for many (not all) they have no interest in spending a lot of time cooking, cleaning, home maintenance or gardening. In chatting with Joe Starkman, developer of University City Village at Brentwood Station and N3 (East Village condo with no parking) awhile back he told me his research showed many young buyers don’t want a big kitchen as they mostly eat “takeout” and don’t need room for a big screen TV as they watch movies on their laptop.
Another friend recently said their son and his girlfriend wanted to move from their 650 square foot condo in Kensington, as it was “too big to keep clean.” I have often shaken my head when I saw my middle-age friends cutting grass or shovelling snow while their teenage kids slept in. I suspect the idea of owning a home for young people today is daunting.
For many retired urban professionals (RUPPs) who have worked all their life downtown, the idea of living in or near the downtown, an area of familiarity, and enjoying the food, festival and cultural scene is very attractive. Seattle, like Calgary, has very attractive walkable residential communities surrounding its vibrant downtown - Belltown, Capitol Hill and South Union Lake. In both cities, new restaurants and cafes seem to open weekly and festivals happen almost every weekend.
Retired professionals often want the freedom condo living brings – just close the door and drive away or jet off on the next travel adventure. Or, enjoy more time to bike, walk or meet up with friends, rather than spend time painting the fence, cutting the grass or cleaning the garage.
And the 21st century condo living phenomenon is not limited to the city centre either. More and more condos are being built in suburban communities too. In some cases, this is driven by price as the condo has become the “new suburban starter home” for first time buyers while in other cases, is it driven by the easy living lifestyle that condos preferring to retire in the ‘burbs near grandkids and friends.
Given that the evolution of urban living for centuries has been all about increasing “convenience and comfort,” it is perhaps not surprising that condo living is the next step in that evolution.
An edited version of this blog was commissioned for Condo Living Magazine.