Urbs or Burbs? TD survey finds generational divide on housing preferences

No big surprise that children and the Burbs go together

By Jonathan Chevreau

Further to this morning’s guest blog about Boomer downsizing by realtor Linda Evans comes a poll by TD Canada Trust that shows wide generational differences in housing preferences.

While aging baby boomers are more likely to prefer small towns (21% do) or rural settings (18%), given the choice a third of Canadians would prefer to live in the city (aka “urban environment”) while almost as many (31%) lean to a more suburban environment.

As you might expect, it seems the younger you are the more you wish to be in the downtown core, while the older folk tend to flee to the burbs or the country. Thus, 38% of Millennials and 36% of Generation X lean towards urban settings, but Gen X is almost as likely to choose the suburbs (33%).

No doubt this breaks down into those with and without children: you’d expect young singles to congregate where the action is downtown, while those who have met “the one” and started to raise families would prefer a larger home further away once they have to accommodate kids. Downtowners typically have short commutes and easy access to public transit and can get by easily without bearing the expense of vehicle ownership. As most parents in the suburbs well know, one or even two cars are almost a necessity outside the downtown core, and a long commute will likely be another price they pay.

Boomers gravitating to small towns and rural settings

Indeed, the TD survey found 39% of Canadian parents and prospective parents would prefer to raise a family in the suburbs, while 26% would choose a more urban environment. TD BANK GROUP - Gen 'Urbs' or Gen 'Burbs'? - TD survey showsGen X is more likely to say urban (29%), while Boomers are more likely to plump for small towns (23%) or rural  settings (15%).

Six in ten (58%) Canadian parents and prospective parents say congestion is an unappealing aspect of raising a family in a city, while 52% mention the expense of living in urban environments. 45% dislike the noise, 43% feel constrained by the limited outdoor space of homes in the downtown core or just don’t find a smaller living space appealing.

Space, expense main constraints of Urbs

Apart from the space issue, both millennials (59%) and Generation X (58%) find urban homes too expensive. Over half (51%) of parents and would-be parents aren’t willing to forego space, although 32% are willing to make that tradeoff in order to be in the big-city core. Just over a third of millennials and Gen X are okay with that tradeoff but 56% of Boomers and 57% of their parents, the Silent Generation, are not.

As we often note in the Hub’s “Decumulation & Downsizing” section, the Boomers are in the opposite situation than the generations just entering Family Formation and the Housing markets. Facing grown children and emptying nests, they’re more inclined to jettison some of their stuff and their larger homes, exchanging them for urban condos or renting apartments and investing the difference; or fleeing the city altogether and finding twice the home for half the money. Then there are those happy to swap one big city property for a smaller urban condo and a vacation property.

However, the TD survey found half of parents and prospective parents view family-sized condos as unappealing.  Millennials (56%) and Gen X (48%) are more likely to find family-sized condos appealing, while Boomers (57%) and the Silent Gen (59%) are more likely to find them unappealing. Those who like condos like the lower maintenance, the personal living space and availability of amenities for children.

TD commissioned Environics to survey 6,149 adult Canadians in January and February, with a focus on 4,445 who are already parents or plan to be.  For more, click here.



One thought on “Urbs or Burbs? TD survey finds generational divide on housing preferences

  1. Really interesting on how the generational divide on housing preferences ranges based on age.

    If you’re considering purchasing a house, we have an article that weighs the pros and cons of buying vs renting: http://www.finpipe.com/buy-a-house/

    P.S: Great infographic!

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