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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Urban housing trends

Condos being built In North American cities today average about 600 square feet. In some places, the average new-build unit is closer 500 square feet. Few industry analysts expect this trend to reverse in the foreseeable future. What’s going on (and how does it affect marketers)? Young couples are crowding into cities. The young are mobile, and suburban housing tracts have become unattractive dead zones. Competition for urban digs has raised the price of a square foot of condo. But it’s more than price. They simply don’t need the space. Bookshelves? Magazine racks? Replaced by an e-book reader. CD/DVD storage? Digital files live in a laptop, pad, smart phone, or “the cloud”. Television? That flat screen is just a moving picture on the wall. With network tv circling the drain of irrelevance and cable tv looking as tired as wired phone service ten years ago, the tv set as a dedicated appliance will probably disappear altogether. Clothes? With the demise of specialized office attire, closets can be smaller. Foodstuffs? Cooking from scratch has been zapped by microwaves and take-home meals, so food storage and kitchen appliance needs shrink. Downstairs from that 600 square foot condo you’ll find a garage with one parking space for every two or three or four units. This dramatic reversal of the traditional one-space-per unit standard marks the confluence of zoning strategies to diminish urban traffic congestion; reduced utility of personal vehicles in cities where businesses don’t provide parking; and a perception among young people that a owning a car is ecologically immoral and fiscally irrational. Public transport and internet-mediated car-share services will do just fine, thank you. It’s obvious why residential downsizing matters. With less room for “stuff”, it’ll be harder to sell stuff. Clearly a boon to the planet, but maybe not so good for annual bonuses.

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