There are a lot of swirling misconceptions about a generation labeled “Millennials” - people born between “1982 - 2004”. Many Baby Boomers often characterize them as “lazy and entitled,” but Simon Sinek, in a recent interview on “Millennials in The Workplace”, has given the world a refresher on this often misunderstood group. Here is one reason why this group should be understood: Millennials have now officially surpassed Baby Boomers as “America’s largest living generation”, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Many Millennials are very adamant about living a starkly different life than their parents. Traits such as “do what you love,” is often associated with this group. Opting not to stay in a job/career where they are unhappy, working for over twenty-five years and then retire. Millennials want to live the “retired” life while they work, which means taking the time to travel, participate in social causes, civic engagement, and groups impacting meaningful societal change. This has resulted in fewer takers in the realm of the traditional thirty-year mortgages and big houses. Millennials find studios and micro-developments with a roommate or two, a lot more appealing. They would much rather splurge on travel and wellness, than on owning a house with expensive maintenance and upkeep.
There are pockets of Millennials who has chosen to the route of owning tiny houses (houses designed to be less than 500 square feet). Along with tiny homes, tiny houses on wheels has sparked a movement of self-builders, especially in the U.S. - it even has its own television show on HGTV. However, beyond tiny houses, Millennials are looking for ways to reduce the cost of homeownership (or just not owning at all), while making a statement of support for issues they care about. Co-live options such as Common, WeLive, and many more are starting to gain in popularity. The basic concept is to have small/micro dwellings with shared kitchens, dining rooms, and other common areas. Since the idea of the “shared economy” has been made a way of life by services such as Uber, Lyft, and AirBnB. Co-living and co-working are now the new norms for Millennials.
Developers and architects are working on ways to serve this market opportunity of over 74 million Millennials - that is just in the U.S. alone. Providing options such as micro-apartments (these used be called “studios,” but leave it to marketing), developments without parking - to help encourage sustainable modes of transportation in cities - and shipping container housing by architectural designers and fabricators, who are also tackling this problem. Working with city planners and zoning, shipping containers can provide temporary or permanent housing as well as the economic revitalization of blighted areas and empty lots waiting for years to be developed. Affordable/attainable housing is not just a Millennial problem, it can become an economic problem for cities who are losing their graduates to other cities who provide more affordable housing options. The effect is known as “brain drain,” where young professionals leave, because they cannot afford to live in a place where the median income does not match up with the high cost of living. Miami and other cities in the U.S. are currently experiencing this trend, which is a problem that affects the ability of cities to attract and retain talent, and the companies that would eventually recruit them. When it comes to housing and income inequality - based on a recent Bloomberg report - “Miami is the most unequal big city in America”.
Cities need to work more with developers, urban planners, self-builders, architects, and others to make it more accessible and cost-efficient to introduce innovative ideas for attainable housing for this and generations to come. Especially for Millennials, who are just not that interested in traveling the same path of homeownership, as their parents’ generation.