On average, a young, Gen Y woman reads a lot more than a young, Gen Y man. Who cares, you ask?
Well, according to James Chung, founder of Reach Advisors, a New York-based strategy and research firm, this is exactly the type of data that apartment owners and developers need to look at. Do you add more shelf space to accommodate women’s desire to read? Or do they change their model units in some way?
The growing presence of single women is just one of the things Chung tackled in yesterday's webinar, “The Demographics of Today’s Renters: Who Are They and How are They Different?” for the National Association of Homebuilders. He also took a deeper look at how our increasingly multicultural society and burgeoning Gen Y class have been affected by the recession.
The notion that men outearn women is just one thing that apartment owners need to rethink. Chung says urban women in their 20s are 1.5x more likely than men to earn an advanced degree and are earning up to 105 percent of their male counterparts. He contends that these woman, who are waiting later in life to get married or have children, want things like security and the ability to “form and create.” They’ll also look at buying: 20 percent to 25 percent of all first-time home buyers are women.
What is known right now is that the Great Recession has changed the way American consumer thinks. Chung says it’s created a “jump ball economy” where people have rethought both their brand preferences and aspirations. “There are a number of things that we assumed consumers would do that they’re willing to rethink,” Chung said.
The Gen Y generation, of course, is a broader demand driver than just single women. But that group has been hit especially hard during the recession. “Population growth isn’t necessarily happening in the area of highest income,” he says.
But the growth in Gen Y is more diverse. Chung said that from the 1900s to the 1970s, nine out of 10 20-somethings were white. Now, it’s almost a 50/50 split between whites and other races. “This generation [Gen Y] expects diversity,” Chung says, so housing that can provide diversity may have an advantage.
Gen Y also wants customization, but Chung’s research points out something else that may bode well for urban multifamily. “Gen Y is not embracing outdoor sports as much as past generations,” he says.
Right now, like everyone else, Chung isn’t seeing development to meet the needs of Gen Y. He cautions that the last boom resulted in about 50 percent of multifamily units built being on the for-sale side. He says that historically only about 15 percent of multifamily units are bought by people who plan to live there.
Chung’s research likewisepoints out that the newest classes of multifamily dwellers probably won’t be looking for the high-end condos built five years ago. Many Gen Y members lost their jobs, and their parents have also been hit hard. That trend manifested itself in 2008 and 2009 when parents began to pull on subsidies to their children. “Over the last decade, most household’s lost ground as far as income,” he says.