Saturday, 7 January 2012

Catching the wave: Demographics, Costs and Climate shift living choices; outer suburbs may “lack staying power” - Urban Land Institute

Recently the Urban Land Institute and PriceWaterhouseCoopers released their well-regarded annual analysis, Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2010.  This report, annually published for the last 30 years, aims to advise the industry "on where to invest, what to develop, which markets are hot, and how the economy, and trends in capital flows will affect real estate."  The report also serves as a caution to those home owners fixated on the value of their large suburban homes as being a guaranteed retirement nest egg that must always accrue in value.

The authors, who surveyed over 900 industry experts - investors, developers, property companies, lenders, brokers, and consultants - believe that the public appetite and need for re-adapted development for mixed-use "smart growth" neighbourhoods are much stronger than they are for automobile-serviced suburban sprawl.  Many of the report's assessments fully co-incide with the goals for the DNV's own recently adopted 2030 Official Community Plan and its proposals for Village and Town Centres.

Here's an excerpt: 
"Next-generation projects will ori­ent to infill, urbanizing suburbs, and transit-oriented develop­ment. Smaller housing units-close to mass transit, work, and 24-hour amenities-gain favor over large houses on big lots at the suburban edge. People will continue to seek greater convenience and want to reduce energy expenses. Shorter commutes and smaller heating bills make up for higher infill real estate costs."
Looking at the growing factors affecting lifestyle and housing choices, the report advises investors to "buy or hold multifamily" as "the only place with a hint of hope, because of demographic demand" as a large contingent of echo boomers seek their first homes.

In a section titled "Markets to Watch," the report also advises investors to favor convenient urban office, retail, entertainment and recreation districts where there are mass transit alternatives to driving.  Investors are advised to shy away from, among other things, fringe areas "with long car com­mutes or where getting a quart of milk means taking a 15- minute drive."

"Road conges­tion, higher energy costs, and climate change concerns combine to alter peo­ple's thinking about where they decide to live and work. 'It's a fundamental shift.' The lifestyle cost-of-living equa­tion starts to swing away more dramati­cally from bigger houses on bigger lots at the suburban edge to greater convenience and efficiencies gained from infill housing closer to work. These homes may be more expensive on a price-per-pound basis, but reduced driving costs and lower heating/cooling bills provide offsets . . . 'near-in suburbs will do well especially if they link to busi­ness cores by mass transportation.' Empty nesters and later-marrying echo boomers continue to flock to cities and urbanizing suburban areas. For aging baby boomers, infill apartment or town­house living means less upkeep and proximity to cultural and entertainment attractions.

All of the above concerns inform the proposed Lower Capilano/Marine Village Centre and the planning implementation being conducted this spring by DNV Planning.

The community consultation and DNV technical analysis work together will inform more detailed design of the Village Centre. It is anticipated the Lower Capilano/Marine Village Centre Implementation Plan will be substantially advanced by mid 2012 and completed by year-end with community consultation occurring throughout the process.  

More details can be found at  or by contacting the Lead Project Planner, Tom Lancaster

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