Urban families after the great reset
As energy becomes expensive and major cities increase their status as economic drivers, families who live in them will inhabit smaller spaces than many do today. Some are already there, and from their lifestyles we can glimpse into the future.
Melanie, her husband and two children live in their 950 square foot condominium in Vancouver’s Yaletown district, adjacent to downtown. She also runs a pre-and-post-natal fitness (Fit4Two) business from home (although she gives classes and does personal training at local rec centres or outside). Here are some perspectives on the future, based on their experiences.
Idea #1 - Families of the future valuing time more than space
One main reason Melanie’s family lives in the urban core is to avoid commuting. If they lived in a suburb, her husband — who works long hours in the film industry — would rarely see the kids between commuting and the job’s hours. Melanie’s business requires she be near many pending and new moms, and being in Yaletown puts thousands of potential clients within an easy distance to make with a stroller.
Saving time and valuing time as much or more than money or space is becoming a new feature of 21st century life for many young adults. Although commuting between distant suburban locations and urban cores where the jobs are packed will in the future continue to be possible using various transit and shared options that will emerge, many families will reject this option preferring to focus on the housing option that allows for more quality time together.
Idea #2 - Two bedroom apartments or condos can accommodate a family of four (although some modifications would help)
In the future, although some families will manage to afford single family homes in close proximity to jobs and other needed amenities, more will live in duplexes, triplexes, townhomes and apartment buildings in the bigger, more dynamic cities.
Many families of three of four will live in 2 bedroom condos — so what will that be like? and what lessons could the architects and developers of future buildings need?
For Melanie’s family, the bedrooms are just that — places to sleep and store your clothes. They selected their unit in part because the suite maximized space in a well-layed out kitchen-dining-living area. With Ikea organizing technology in place, the living space offers room for children’s toys; entertaining space for having a few friends over and a vertically-organized home office that partially folds away when not in use.
What isn’t working quite so well for them is the small size of the second bedroom, which must accommodate two children in separate beds. Bunk beds are not appropriate for children under age 10. So Melanie is looking into “trundle beds” where one bed pulls out from under the other and tucks away during the day. A better designed unit for the future family home might offer a second bedroom big enough to accommodate two twin beds. Maybe furniture makers can get creative as well — how about twin murphy beds?
Idea # 3 - Families will use creative strategies to avoid over-accumulation of stuff that won’t fit.
Melanie’s general rule: When something new comes home, something else has to go. This applies to clothes, toys, sports equipment, etc. Melanie thinks this rule helps kids appreciate what they have and learn that they can’t have everything they want — there are trade offs in life (if you want this, then you won’t be able to have that). Birthdays and Christmas are focused around receiving one big gift, and one set of (out-of-town) grandparents contributes to a plane ticket fund instead of giving gifts, allowing the whole family to visit at least once per year.
In the future, with fewer families having a basement, garage or spare room into which to dump excess stuff, websites like Craigslist and eBay could be even busier as families seek to unload one set of belongings and find others.
#3B - The experience economy rises out of condos
As the children get older, Melanie hopes to shift from giving the kids toys to giving them experiences.
Indeed, many individuals and families are already trying to consume in the experience economy rather than the non-durable goods one, regardless of whether they have kids or live in a condo. They spend their money on experiences (whether a trip to the spa, having nails done, a fancy dinner, enjoying a $5 latte with a friend, etc.) rather than on lavish belongings if they have to choose.
Families in condos might become a dominant consumer of “experience” rather than what can be purchased at Toys ‘r Us. (And there might be some great business opportunities in catering to these future families). I know, or have known, many families who use strategies like this — many young children can understand the choice between receiving lots of toys or getting to go to Hawaii or Disneyland for Christmas.
Do you live in a condo? what insight does this give you into future North American families?
What about participating in the experience economy over the non-durable goods one?
Thanks Melanie, for sharing.
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