Housing, Transit, Baby Boomers and Demographics.

David Foot, of Boom, Bust and Echo fame was the key note speaker at a Regional Housing Forum, The Past is not the Future. To my mind, he emphasized that the past is the future. The Baby Boomers rule everything and will for the next 30 years. By the way, Baby Boomers aren’t the retired, they range in age from 44 to 64 with an average age of 50.  They are the biggest voting block because as people age, they tend to start to vote and there are so darn many of us.

Foot feels that transit is only for the young and that the young like to live downtown. The birth control pill and working women has meant a drop in birth rates (also the BB is an anomaly when you look at birth rates,  the end of the trauma of WW II and the huge loss of life meant people wanted homes and children, in my opinion) In any case, the City of Waterloo needs to think carefully about who will live in Northdale, as in 10 years the BB Echo (ages 18 to 30) will have gone through university and college and there will be a decline in students as there presently is in the younger grades.

Foot feels that as boomers retire they will move their summer homes and while they might buy downtown condos, they won’t use them all the time. They will move to one car and hospitals are needed in small towns. They won’t use transit. Woah, hold on here. Is this the truth according to demographics or the wishful thinking of a retired academic? Last time I looked, my baby boom self didn’t have a summer home and I’m not moving from my bungalow to buy a part-time condo. By the way, intensification doesn’t mean a downtown of  highrise condos. It can also mean townhouses and two to three story buildings. Our own Kevin Eby noted that older bungalows, and small war time housing is also very popular with boomers. Hmmm. Like the few vets in Northdale.

That’s why, although many things Foot said were interesting, it was also important to listen to the speakers in the afternoon at the forum.

Doug Norris,  the Chief Demographer of Enrivonics Analytics said that while he respects Foot, demographics is not destiny. Three quarters of it is demographics and one quarter is attitude.  He pointed out that Baby Boomers are different from their parents.  We move more from place to place and their are more women on their own, whether through widowhood or divorce.  The Boomers are moving all over but 75 % actually stay in the city. A person in my small discussion group noted that people are moving from Toronto to the region, the region being their smaller town!

Ted Tsiakopoulos of CMHC noted that right now is a good time to be a  landlord and that re-sale homes are popular right now.  He introduced the word De-malling which means building housing over our one story malls as we finish with greenfields. Living on top of the mall, surely the dream of all current generations. 🙂

 While Foot felt imigration isn’t needed because the BB Echo can fill it, others feel that immigration is key with the gradual exiting of Boomers from the work force. It was noted also that Boomers may be working longer and part time.

The biggest group entering the workforce is 50 plus women. And there will be a large demographic of 75 year old widows in a few years. Women equal condos, travel, good food and quality entertainment. Oh yes, women ride the bus.  (It’s amazing to me how often women are missed as a demographic, OK, no it’s not)

As far as transit goes, we are building for the future: the BB Echo and beyond, very elderly boomers who can’t drive and want to be near good hospital care, immigrants used to good transit  and women.

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