Architects and Builders Must Get With the Program!

By: Bill Black

Women buyers are changing the realty demographics and seriously challenging the current market. The face of the home-buying public is altering, but as yet the market options have not changed enough to meet the different housing requirements of the early 21st century. Is the construction industry a bit slow on the uptake here?

The housing market is still largely catering to the 'single family/ man as breadwinner' style of home, but the statistics reveal that this type of home buyer is decreasing. A corresponding increase in single homeowners is attempting to fill the gap.

'Attempting' is the operative word here, because many single prospective home owners are looking for smaller (and less expensive) homes than they can find on the market. 2007 was the first year that the number of single home owners exceeded the number of married people buying homes.

There are also forty million female baby boomers out there, and these will be the largest ever group of women to be over sixty at any one time. Statistics show that more women than men live alone, and also that more single women than single men own their own home.

Many who do not own their own property would probably like the opportunity to buy a home. In fact, according to a survey by the Harvard Generations Policy Program, many of the single baby boomers who do not own a home will suffer more in their old age.

According to the Harvard survey, how financially secure baby boomer women will be as they age will be "greatly influenced by their present and future housing choices". At the moment the housing choices are being hindered because the construction industry is being slow in getting with the program.

According to the USA Census Bureau, in the 1950s, the married-couple household accounted for 80% of homes, whereas today it is only showing a 50% representation.

However, with the exception of condominium growth, most homes are still built to these 'average family' specifications. One prediction (from BusinessWeek) is that by 2010, nearly 30% of homes will house a sole occupant.

The type of small affordable housing that is needed is often found in Europe, where land is at a premium. Plots of land, houses and rooms are all smaller there. Sometimes, four modest retirement homes are built onto one plot and a small 'garden' is often communal.

Some U.S. vacation condos have been built with two entrances and an annexed area with a separate studio/kitchen/bathroom. This is presumably to afford the condo owner to be in residence while renting out the main part of the condo. However, options such as these may enable people on a limited income to become home owners.

In the UK, row houses are popular and also large homes have been converted into two or four 'apartments' after receiving planning permission and this is another way to bring in cheaper housing. However, most homes in North America will only split into two housing areas (basement suites are an example of this).

It would seem that, although there is a place in society for cheaper and smaller housing, society must wait for the building industry to comply.

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