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2 parents, 2 kids, and 1 cat in 1,000 square feet

Yesterday a colleague at the office sent around this Globe and Mail article talking about a Vancouver family of 4 (plus one cat) who live in a 1,000 square foot loft near downtown that they purchased in 2003 for $269,900. There weren’t really any photos of the place, but the article makes it sound like they have 3 beds crammed into one room. (I wonder how the parents ever manage to have sex. There are better ways to lay out 1,000 sf.)

In any event, the point of the article is that there’s a growing number of families who are clinging to the downtown lifestyle that they’ve grown accustomed to and are refusing to follow the path of a conventional suburban house – regardless of how tight their current quarters might be. It’s happening in Toronto (here’s an article from the Toronto Star and here’s a post I wrote) and it’s happening in New York:

A recent New York Times article on a similar trend noted that the number of white professionals with one or more children living in one-bedroom condo units in that city had jumped by almost a third between 2000 to 2006. Prof. Andrew Beveridge, from Queens College of the City University of New York, said the pattern was showing up in other expensive American cities. In Toronto, the 2011 National Household Survey showed there are about 72,000 families living in 71,500 units in buildings with five or more storeys – undoubtedly many of them the new, tiny condos proliferating there.

To some this might sound crazy. I mean, why would a dual income family–such as the one in Vancouver–subject themselves to a smaller space when they could easily afford a bigger place somewhere else? Isn’t that the dream – to have a big house?

The answer is that these families are considering–in addition to the direct costs of a bigger place–both the indirect costs of living further away from the core (such as longer commute times) and the inevitable lifestyle changes that would happen should they move out from their downtown neighborhoods. The urban lifestyle is different.

But what I find interesting about this phenomenon is that if this trend continues (and I think it will), we’re going to have a new generation of people in North America who grew up in apartments, condos, and lofts, and don’t have the same biases around single family houses and suburban living. To them, an apartment will be a perfectly normal place to raise a family.

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