Calgary’s millennials

Two young professionals living in the inner city versus suburbia

Calgarian Crystal Scriven went five years without a car until purchasing one last September.

Her deference to driving came down to her needs at the time, but also personal preference – a sentiment shared by a growing number of young adults, suggests Zipcar’s annual Millennial Survey.

The survey, released last month, found 45 per cent of millennials – the most popular definition of which is someone born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – are making a conscious effort to reduce how much they drive.

In addition, when asked which would be the hardest to give up — a car, mobile phone, computer/tablet or TV — both urbanites (32 per cent) and millennials (41 per cent) picked a mobile phone as number one, whereas suburban (41 per cent) and rural (43 per cent) residents chose a car as number one.

Developers have already started to respond to these new buyers’ shifting needs. In Calgary, Knightsbridge Homes has proposed a 168-suite tower in East Village that would provide ample bike parking, but no stalls for tenants or visitors.

The development, located at Eighth Avenue S.E. and Fourth Street just blocks from the City Hall LRT, received unanimous approval at the Calgary Planning Commission in March. It is expected to head to council this June.

Calgary developers are not alone. In Toronto, Tribute Communities is constructing a 42-storey condo tower with no permanent resident parking — just nine spots reserved for a car-share service.

And in Vancouver, the city has been discouraging builders from adding extra stalls to avoid traffic congestion, and encouraging its residents to use other forms of transportation including walking, biking and public transit. Last year, commuters were hit with a new 35 per cent tax on parking stalls in commercial lots and higher on-street parking costs.

Yet millennials’ misgivings for motors are not the only factor influencing urban design. According to Nielsen’s Millennials – Breaking the Myths poll, millennials are fueling an urban revolution where a mix of housing, shopping and offices are right outside their doorstep.

That certainly was the case for Scriven, who is renting in the inner-city community of Mission because of its easy access to shopping, pubs and restaurants.

She admits, thought, it would take “winning the lottery” to purchase a home in her current community, where the average benchmark price for an apartment was $290,500 in April, according to CREB®. In fact, a survey from Abacus Data found 59 per cent of young Canadians will delay events such as buying a home because of financial pressures.

Yet Scriven cautions against narrowing millennials to a catch-all definition – whether that be a young crowd that’s reluctant to purchase a vehicle or one that’s in no hurry to buy a home of their own.

“We’ve been hearing a lot about generational differences, particularly about how all these millennials are lay-abouts, how they live with their parents and expect to move up super quickly in work situations. And I don’t think I fit any of those categories, thank goodness,” she said.

“I think that I grew in a generation of people who were told that anything is possible, and that you can be whoever you want to be. So I suppose, to me, that’s what a millennial is. We’re a generation of people who are certainly more accepting of humanities differences than our parents’ generation, and I definitely think we tend to be a generation who values travel and experience over materialism.”

Fellow millennial Amy Gregson also doesn’t buy into her generation’s so-called label. She purchased a home with her fiancé in the southeast community of New Brighton over two years ago because it was more affordable than the inner city (average benchmark for an apartment was $229,800 in April) and it was closer to family and friends.

“I bought a house in the suburbs where we could afford one as I didn’t have much interest in renting,” she said.

Gregson added she uses her car often as it’s the most convenient – mostly due to limited transit options in the area.

“There are times when I wish I could easily get on transit to meet friends downtown for a drink, go to hockey games or a concert and not have to worry about getting home,” she said. “However, I feel like there isn’t much choice but to drive where I live. But I choose to live here and absolutely love it.”

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