By Fiona Wagner
Baby boomers have been making waves ever since the mid-1940s and their impact is no less dramatic on the housing market. According to a recent report, "Long-term housing demand in Canada," commissioned by the Canadian Home Builders' Association, Canada's aging population, specifically those born between 1946 and 1966, has moved from its younger family-forming years to its older empty-nester years.
In the period from 2016 to 2031, the fastest growing component of the Canadian population will be people ages 65 and above. Such a demographic shift has significant implications on every sector of the economy, including the housing market; namely, supply will need to focus on the unique needs of empty nesters and retirees. Not only will this demographic affect the way homebuilders and developers do business, but property managers will need to be proactive in anticipating and adapting their management style as well.
"With the demographics changing there may be a need from a physical standpoint—more accessibility issues that need addressing," says Chris Antipas, vice president, ICC Property Management Ltd. in Markham, Ont. "[Installing] automatic doors and ramps are usually the first things that you need to do."
While the scope of physical changes required is comprehensive and inclusive, this doesn't need to be an onerous undertaking. "With proper planning ordinary condominium corporations can easily modify the facilities to accommodate the needs of older persons," says Janice Pynn, executive vice president, Simerra Property Management Inc located in Toronto.
Some suggestions include:
Ignoring the needs of the more discerning baby boomer can mean unhappy residents, or worse. "The manager needs to educate the board that if they don't accommodate the residents with reasonable necessities, such as supply an automatic door opener or handrails, they may find themselves on the wrong side of a human rights complaint," says Antipas.
Besides the physical adaptations, PMs should be considering changes—both large and small—to the day-to-day operation of their facilities. These can be as basic and simple as increasing the font size of posted notices and letters. It can also mean making adaptations to policies regarding parking to accommodate support vehicles such as Meals on Wheels, providing in-suite services for maintenance normally done by the owner (such as window cleaning or caulking), and amending the corporation's definition of "single family" to include parents and children of owners as approved occupants, says Pynn.
While according to the CHBA report, the majority of retired Canadians traditionally age in place (meaning they do not move residences) after retirement, it's also important to recognize the needs of those who downsize. Consider the case of affluent empty-nesters who sell their 4,000 square foot estate home and move to a traditional condominium or more focused lifestyle community.
"What we're looking at is the differential in young families and the type of services they need versus the type of services that active senior citizens need," says Robert Weinberg, president, Percel Inc. in Concord, Ont. "We're not looking at these people as the 'old folks home' kind. These are people that want services that allow them to explore their personal, physical and financial needs," such as social events, fitness classes, a business centre and even an on-site superintendent.
"These are the people who say, 'I am paying a maintenance fee and I'll pay even more maintenance fees as long as I get quality services,'" adds Weinberg. "They're not interested in the bottom dollar. They're interested in service for dollars."
By being proactive and anticipating the needs of this growing demographic, property managers can provide a good quality of life for current residents and maintain a successful and attractive facility for their clients.