Last month I was keen to start exploring the impact the generational shift taking place in Leaside-Bennington will have. There is no denying the demographics, and after my enjoyable foray into the world of Millennials, it was only fitting to follow up that column with an effort to understand the thoughts of ‘baby boomers’ and ‘matures,’ who represent 30% of our neighbourhood and may also be affected.
Is there a deepening crisis at our doorsteps?
First, the impetus behind this month’s inquiry is the stories that keep appearing in the media such as the Star (“‘Over-housed’ boomers looking to downsize have no place to go”), the Globe (“The coming housing crisis for seniors”) and Bloomberg (“Toronto’s rental frenzy spurs high-rise dog park, fleet of Teslas”). The headlines are shouting that there is a deepening crisis at our doorsteps. If the Millennials are coming into the neighbourhood, are the boomers and matures planning to depart? And if so, where are they planning to go?
The individuals I communicated with had a collective 140 years of living in Leaside. I had a list of prepared questions and although there were some differences in opinion, there was much that was the same. There was some reminiscing of the way it used to be: “a very nice middle-class area with great neighbours and handy shops,” “a village in the city,” “people had one car so the streets were easy to navigate, safe for cyclists and pedestrians,” and “Southvale was a very quiet street back then.” Of course, there were some bones to pick: “no thought to keeping the original design of our little piece of heaven,” “the OMB,” “monster homes,” “razing of bungalows,” “horrid and dangerous traffic,” and “all the new developments.” One wish for Leaside, “to be a self-supporting entity like it was when it was founded.” Interestingly, there were a lot of similarities with the Millennials with regard to all the reasons we love where we live.
Nobody wanted to leave Leaside any time soon
When it came down to it, not one individual said they wished to downsize, rent out rooms in their homes, or that they wished to leave life in Leaside any time soon. In one case, I got a three exclamation “NO!!!” So, it appears that for those wishing to get into the neighbourhood, all those new condos and townhomes may be the only option without breaking the bank. In doing the research for this piece, I came across a number of ideas that local business operators and developers might look to give our boomers and matures more choice. One example was to build slightly larger units designed specifically for the demographic and the type of lifestyle they desire – one which may be different from the Millennials. If these folks are planning on staying in our changing but idyllic part of Toronto, then businesses might consider how to better meet their needs…there are plenty of opportunities (e.g. I wrote back in June about supporting our ‘mature-preneurs’ with the application of new technology).