Rethink Rental: Building for the Next Generation in Vancouver
A shift is quietly underway in Vancouver. There is a growing segment of people in the lower mainland whose priorities have changed. They are letting their values guide how they invest in culture, education, travel and experiences. They are engaged with their community, savvy with their money and intentional in how they live. And, they are choosing rental. This next generation of renters is proud to prioritize lifestyle—and willing to devote their considerable resources towards a home that suits their needs. “Living in Vancouver is our choice,” says Chelle Morgan, a communications and social media strategist living in The Duke, a purpose-built rental building in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. “My community, my friends—we're all in our late 20s and mid-30s, and all of us are renting in the city.” This demographic is getting bigger and that is creating an opportunity for developers: when they build to meet the needs of the new renter, they can be a catalyst in our communities, pushing the living experience forward and to new heights.
There are already examples of how the trend towards new rental has shaped cities like New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Homeownership is difficult and often less attainable for first-time buyers in these storied places, so thoughtfully designed rental developments have taken on a new significance. And, they’re serving a double purpose: housing a group of renters that don’t want to compromise, and more broadly, contributing to elevated urban experiences in the surrounding communities. These cities offer Vancouver a glimpse of its future. The lifestyle and culture here attract people from across the country and around the world, and the real estate market is maturing. The writing is on the wall when it comes to the future of homeownership here, and now is the time to begin building in earnest for the new renter.
For Morgan, her choice to rent is a conscious decision motivated by her lifestyle. “I think of someone who's renting versus someone who owns, and there are different schools of thought. Because I'm renting and a working professional, I have more flexibility with my financials—to spend a little more on myself and not worry about paying a mortgage.” But, old rental stock tends to be rooted in an outdated paradigm that doesn’t recognize the needs of the new renter.
In other cities, some forward-thinking developers have been embracing a new mentality for years now. Many governments in the United States tightened rules after the recession in 2008 and developers were forced to pivot away from market-priced sale products. This spurred a trend towards highly livable rental products in major urban centres that are specifically designed to serve wealthy renters. These heavily amenitized buildings offer smart living spaces, considered programming and public and social spaces that contribute to local placemaking. “Living in a building like this—it’s a different experience than living in an older walk-up,” says Morgan. “We have a rooftop patio, shared spaces, and the management has done a great job of creating a sense of community for The Duke.”
In Vancouver today, the new renter has arrived—but there is not enough thoughtfully designed rental to meet their needs. As Rize Alliance points out, well over half of the rental stock was built between 1950 and 1980. But developers can meet this moment. “I’ve never thought about identifying myself as a renter,” says Morgan, “but at this stage in my life, as we started to look at property and think what it means to buy, I began thinking that renting makes sense. The benefit of renting versus owning, I think that’s where my head is at now.”
We’ve been fortunate at FAC to be a part of purpose-built rental projects across North America, and we’ve seen how a shift in perspective not only creates successful projects, but enlivens the broader community. Elevated amenities, activated communal spaces and curated retail aren’t just nice to have, they’re an imperative. The pillars of new rental include community, design, dining, services and memberships, simplicity, access and a sense of play. Building projects with that in mind creates a unified experience for renters, shop owners and locals alike. We see this emerging in Vancouver with projects like The Duke and Chronicle, and it benefits developers, renters—and ultimately—the city at large by uplifting and adding to the urban experience.