Panel questions the future of millennial housing

The University of Waterloo School of Planning hosted a housing panel titled “Housing the Future: Challenges and Opportunities Facing the Next Generation.”

The panel was organized by Dr. Markus Moos, assistant professor with UW’s School of Planning; Dr. Pierre Filion, a UW professor; Maxwell Hartt, PhD candidate with the School of Planning; Dr. Laura Johnson from UW; Dr. Roger Keil from York University; and Dr. Alan Walks from the University of Toronto. 

Moos recently launched a new project called Generationed City, which aims to be a conduit for urban generational research. Much of the research the project is conducting focuses on young adults and millennials. 

Moos opened the panel by stating that we are in the “midst of an affordability crisis” when it comes to housing in Canadian cities. Moos’ research with Generationed City focuses on how unemployment and housing issues affect different generations; for his current project he is focusing on millennials — people who were born between 1980 and 2000.

Current research shows that affordable housing in the current economy has become more expensive. 

&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have to treat socioeconomic systems as given; they were created by people, and they can be changed by people,&rdquo; said Moos when talking about the correlation between housing affordability and income. Moos also declared to <em>Waterloo News</em> that &ldquo;there are good economic reasons to ensure housing remains affordable. Spending lots on housing means less to spend on food, clothing, entertainment, travel &mdash; it impacts expenditures in other sectors of the economy.&rdquo;

The panelists discussed a variety of topics such as why cities are constantly growing, how to tackle the challenges of affordable public housing in North America, the redevelopment of cities based on age groups, and how gentrification affects housing.&nbsp;

The second half of the panel was a Q&amp;A with members of the audience. The first question for the panelists was: &ldquo;How can we get more affordable housing in Uptown Waterloo?&rdquo; This led to the question &ldquo;What is affordable housing?&rdquo; Moos responded by saying: &ldquo;Affordable housing is something you can either afford to rent or purchase&rdquo; and how it depends on the income a single individual is making. Affordability of housing is based on the median of that income, as explained by Moos.&nbsp;

Another significant question that was asked to the panelists was: &ldquo;How will the LRT change student housing in the city?&rdquo; Filion stated that &ldquo;the LRT will extend the reach of the student population, and make it possible for students to live in Kitchener rather than in Waterloo and will possibly reduce the rents in Waterloo because of the condition of a larger housing market.&nbsp;

&ldquo;From that perspective, it will have a positive impact on students,&rdquo; said Filion.&nbsp;

Answering the same question, Keil shared his experience with the future subway station that is being built near York University and how it has turned housing projects into &ldquo;student ghettos,&rdquo; but he predicts that after the York University subway station is opened, those housing projects will shift again to single family units and become gentrified because people will want to live closer to Downtown Toronto.

&ldquo;At York University we are getting a subway&hellip; they subdivided the student ghetto into dorms with 13 students to a house ... I predict that once the subway opens this is gonna flip to become very gentrified to single family home because this is now gonna be attractive to people working in downtown Toronto to live near the York University subway station,&rdquo; said Keil.&nbsp;

Keil also stated that students need to watch out for the effects of gentrification once a big transit project is underway because they will be on the losing end of the housing market.


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