I have been in the business of creating rental housing for almost 45 years. However, it has been 42 years since I’ve lived in an apartment. That is, my wife and I haven’t lived in an apartment until recently, when we decided to get a small pied-à-terre at an apartment community in Washington, DC. It’s an even better way to live than I had expected.
First, let me expand on why we decided to rent an apartment, especially since we haven’t sold our home and have no intention of doing so. We love Baltimore, a community in which we are very active and where, more importantly, our grandchildren live. We just decided it would be fun to be able to more easily and more often take advantage of some of the wonderful urban amenities offered in DC. And it is fun.
When we come into our apartment building, we lock our car and forget it. We can walk to the grocery, drugstore, bank and almost any other service we need. We can walk to a local restaurant; in fact, I think that without breaking a sweat, we can walk to at least four of them. And there are more coming.
When we want to go to a museum or the theater, we take a cab or call Uber. And because there is no home to maintain, we do go to museums. Of course, that’s the best part; there is no maintenance. If something goes wrong, we call Henry, and in no time it’s fixed. If we go away or go home, we lock the door, and don’t worry about much else.
As people who read this blog know, demand for apartments has boomed in recent years. There seems to be a general belief that this surge is exclusively driven by Millennials, that large segment of people between 19 and 35 years old. While I would never underestimate the significance of the Millennials, increasingly, we have seen a substantial number of Baby Boomers moving into apartments. In fact, it has been estimated that the vast majority of growth in apartment demand during the next decade will come from this demographic.
Many of these older people are moving out of the suburban home which has served them extremely well as they’ve raised and educated their children. That home is now an unnecessary burden so many of them want to move into in-town apartments, frequently in new towns where their children have relocated to work, marry and have kids of their own. As the Baby Boomer population moves significantly into its post full-time work phase, I expect more and more of them will find the lifestyle offered by apartments too attractive to resist.
As we in the industry recognize the housing demands of Baby Boomers, there is sometimes fierce debate over whether this group will move into rentals or condos, whether they will move to live in places where it’s warm or instead be driven by proximity to their children, or simply stay put, and whether they will live in age-restricted or mixed-generation housing. The argument itself is silly. There are so many Baby Boomers; it’s safe to say that among the choices presented by this debate, “all of the above” is the only answer.
At our company, we are tackling this opportunity with a diverse strategy. First, we are designing our new market rate communities to recognize that the needs and financial wherewithal of the Baby Boomers are somewhat different than those of the younger renter, but to a significant degree their tastes are not all that dissimilar.
Secondly, we are designing some communities that will be specifically intended for residency by older individuals. But these will not be people who think of themselves as “senior citizens.” These will be people who want to live an active lifestyle but who choose to stay with others their own age. They will demand amenities, proximity to shopping and relatively easy living, not so they can “rest and enjoy their twilight years” but so they can continue to be active and have fun.
After all, as we think about for housing Baby Boomers today, we have to remember that this is not “the greatest generation” looking to rest in their retirement. This is the generation that invented rock and roll, participated in protest marches, ended the draft, and, for better or worse, gave us Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. They will want to continue to party until the very end.
As for me, I have found one thing about apartment living that isn’t perfect. I have to go outdoors to smoke my cigars.