Comment 82578

By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted November 04, 2012 at 16:57:01

Demographics guru: ‘Big growth is over’
(Toronto Star, Stephen Wickens, Nov 4, 2012)


"[David] Foot is not predicting a real estate crash, but he says developers have to make big adjustments in what they offer. He also says Toronto's economic health is endangered if we don't act fast on major transportation improvements.

He sees two crucial demographic keys to understanding where we're headed, and again it's boomers, who are nearing retirement, and the echo boom, babies born during a 15-year period beginning in 1980.

The year 2000 "is when the echo kids started leaving home, creating new households," Foot says. But "the birth rate peaked in 1991," meaning 2011 should have been at or near the peak of the market -- at least for small downtown condos.

"things should keep dribbling along, but the drop-off in birth rate after 1991 was significant; the big growth is over," he says, adding that immigration rates could skew things a bit.

But Foot sees opportunities for wise developers and the city. He thinks the urban renaissance will have staying power -- if we finally get serious about transportation problems.

"The children of boomers are starting families of their own, birth rates are rising again," he says.

Simultaneously, lots of boomers who raised families in places such as Etobicoke, Scarborough and North York are moving to the next phase of their lives.

"I sort of say, it's downtown in your 20s, suburbs in your 30s and 40s, and peace and quiet country in your 50s and 60s."

He still holds the concept to be largely true, though he acknowledges many echo families will raise inner-city kids and lots of boomers will downsize to a condo in town because they want big-city convenience, vitality and culture.

As for downsizing boomers: “Get real! They won’t be buying 800-square-foot condos, and developers had better figure this out. At the very least, they better start providing units with knockout walls so they can be joined. The boomers, the ones who want the city and its cultural amenities, they have money and they want room.”

Foot sees demand for large units in new midrise buildings out of the core, along the avenues, above mall parking lots and in largely undeveloped areas around and above existing subway stations -- just the stuff city planners would love to see.

“We’re totally wasting valuable airspace above subway stations and malls, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves on transit,” Foot says. “Lots of these boomers may love city living, but they also have Audis and they increasingly won’t want to deal with the stairs at subway stations, let alone the serious overall inadequacies of our transit system.”

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