Monday, January 17, 2011

No McMansions for Millenials -- Gen Y Says NO!

Source: Wall Street Journal
By S. Mitra Kalita and Robbie Whelan, Jan 14, 2011

Here's what Generation Y doesn't want: formal living rooms, soaker bathtubs, dependence on a car.
In other words, they don't want their parents' homes.

Much of this week's National Association of Home Builders conference has dwelled on the housing needs of an aging baby boomer population. But their children actually represent an even larger demographic. An estimated 80 million people comprise the category known as "Gen Y," youth born roughly between 1980 and the early 2000s. The boomers, meanwhile, boast 76 million.

"One-third are willing to pay for the ability to walk," Ms. Duggal said. "They don't want to be in a cookie-cutter type of development. ...The suburbs will need to evolve to be attractive to Gen Y."

Outdoor space is important-but please, just a place to put the grill and have some friends over. Lawn-mowing not desired. Amenities such as fitness centers, game rooms and party rooms are important ("Is the room big enough to host a baby shower?" a millennial might think). "Outdoor fire pits," suggested Tony Weremeichik of Canin Associates, an architecture firm in Orlando. "Consider designing outdoor spaces as if they were living rooms."

Smaller rooms and fewer cavernous hallways to get everywhere, a bigger shower stall and skip the tub, he said. Oh, but don't forget space in front of the television for the Wii, and space to eat meals while glued to the tube, because dinner parties and families gathered around the table are so last-Gen. And maybe a little nook in the laundry room for Rover's bed?

In his presentation, KTGY Group residential designer David Senden showed slide after slide of dwellings that looked like a cross between a hotel lobby and the set of "Melrose Place."

He christened the subset of the generation delaying marriage and family as "dawdlers."

"A house in the suburbs is not for them," Mr. Senden said. "At least not yet."

Places to congregate are more important than a big apartment, he cautioned. He showed one layout of a studio apartment-350 square feet, as big as Mom and Dad's Great Room. Common space has migrated to "club rooms," he said, where Gen-Y residents can host meals and hang out before heading to a common movie-screening room or rooftop swimming pool that they share with the building's other tenants.

The Great Recession and its effects on young people's wages will affect how much home they can buy or rent for years to come.

"Not too many college grads can afford a lot of space in the city," he said. "Think lots of amenities with little tiny units-and a lot of them to keep (fees) down. ...The things these places are doing is constantly coordinating activities. The residents get to know each other and it makes for a much livelier and friendlier environment."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It Takes a Village - An Old-Fashioned One

Source: Playborhood Blog by Mike Lanza
Posted: 01/06/11 12:57 PM

I agree with Hillary Clinton that It Takes a Village to raise a child. I just don’t agree with her on what kind of village it takes.

In her bestselling book of that name, Clinton finds the original notion of a village to be quaint and outdated. She writes, “The village can no longer be defined as a place on the map.” Instead, “it is the network of values and relationships that support and affect our lives.” Many other writers agree with her that a village isn’t physically delimited. Even fifty years ago, communications theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village” to argue that mass communications technology had created a single, global culture.

The problem with this modern definition of a village for children is that they can’t use most of the technologies that adults routinely use to extend a village beyond a small local area. They can’t drive cars on their own until they reach the age of 16, and they can’t interact with others using interactive communications technologies like mobile phone texting until sometime in the elementary or middle school years. So, for children, this modern village concept would force them to depend on the the intervention of parents.

As I’ve argued repeatedly here on, children have a deep need to experience things on their own. The more rich is the physical (not virtual) domain that children can access on their own, on foot, the better.

So, I strongly believe that it takes a village - i.e. an old-fashioned, tight-knit neighborhood - to raise a child. Not some “network of values and relationships.” Not a “global village.” This village is a place where children can wander safely on their own, where they have many meaningful relationships with people - children and adults - outside of their families.
Because children need parenting help when they’re outside our homes, our kids need other kids’ parents to step up and be surrogate parents to our kids when we’re not there. And, we need to do it for those parents’ kids.

We need to feed each other’s kids, soothe them when they get hurt, protect them from danger, and be a resource when they need something. If we parents in a neighborhood (or our surrogates - i.e. babysitters or nannies) join together and do these things for each other’s kids, our kids will feel comfortable wandering up and down the block on their own. We’ll be comfortable letting them do it, too.

Sociologist William Julius Wilson coined the term “reciprocal guardian behavior” back in the 1980s to describe the phenomenon of adults caring for children who aren’t their own in urban poor neighborhoods. Lyman Place in the South Bronx is an excellent example of such a neighborhood. Wilson thought this behavior was a key to making these neighborhoods safe, so that kids could feel comfortable going outside to play.

It’s clear to me that the benefits of reciprocal guardian behavior extend to all social classes. It’s about more than just safety - fundamentally, it’s about creating the conditions for a life of independent play in the neighborhood.

We parents can help make our neighborhoods into villages by spending time in our neighborhoods, socializing with other parents and encouraging our kids to play with neighbor kids. is full of suggestions on how to make this happen.

Have you invested significant time in making your neighborhood into a village? Or, do you fill up all your kids’ free time driving them to activities outside your neighborhood?