Baby boomers, millennials form housing communities in the hearts of cities


Increasing numbers of baby boomers in South Carolina are ditching their mortgages to rent in multi-family buildings in the heart of cities, a prominent building developer has noted.

Apartment communities are far more diverse than they were 25 years ago, with boomers and millennials living side by side, according to John Darby, the chief executive of the Charleston-headquartered The Beach Company.

“Apartments are no longer occupied solely by college students and young professionals,” Darby said. “In the past decade alone, the number of renters aged 55 and older has increased by 42 percent. When you have a good mix of ages, the environment feels like a true community – it gels better.”

This is a national trend. Families or married couples aged 45-64 accounted for roughly twice the share of renter growth as households under the age of 35, according to a 2015 study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Darby said that both groups

– those aged 51-71 and 18-34

– are looking for housing options that cater to their lifestyles, including finding locations within cities, in a diverse community, convenient to daily necessities and high-end amenities.

“Boomers want to live mortgage-free and lower their housing expenses and transient millennials enjoy the flexibility of renting,” he wrote in a blog post for his company. “Multi-family apartments also provide a range of unit types, from 500-square-foot studios to three-bedroom townhomes, fulfilling the desire of boomers to downsize or millennials to live minimally.”

A key attraction is the sense of community, which is actively fostered with residents of all ages gathering for events to get to know their neighbors, the developer said.

“Several of our communities employ CAREs Teams, comprised of individuals who live on site and partner with the management team to foster a sense of community by personally welcoming new residents and planning monthly social events,” Darby said.

Walkability and proximity to everyday conveniences is a major factor when choosing a residence. Both millennials and boomers value the ability to walk to a restaurant, neighborhood market or coffee shop, the Beach Company has found.

“The diversity and density of residents is what sustains walkable retail,” Darby said.

As an example, his company has noted that boomers and millennials visit shops and restaurants at different times of day.

“Most of The Beach Company’s apartment communities are mixed-use projects with retail use on the street level. The built-in number and frequency of customers support the retail, and the ability to walk to dining and shops becomes a neighborhood experience for residents,” Darby wrote in the post. “And, contrary to opinions frequently expressed by those opposed to density, every walk-in visit to a neighborhood shop is one fewer car on the road.”

Renters do expect amenities such as a pool, fitness center and club room, but increasingly are looking to the next level.

“Your pool becomes a saltwater pool with aqua shade lounge, fitness centers are stocked with state-of-the-art equipment and are larger than ever before, and resident clubrooms overlook the city skyline with HDTVs lining the walls,” Darby wrote. “And that’s just the start. Aside from community amenities, baby boomers and millennials both prefer high end finishes and appliances within their apartment homes. While average apartment sizes have dropped from around 1,200 square feet a generation ago to 750 square feet today, renters expect these spaces to be modernly outfitted and efficient.”

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