Housing the Next Generation

Understanding the Millennial generation is going to prove exceptionally important to South Dakota as we continue to combat our workforce shortage.  Millennials will soon make up a majority of the workforce, and we will need to cater to their wants and needs if we hope to attract and retain them. Unfortunately, in addition to this workforce shortage, we are simultaneously combating an affordable housing shortage. There is no doubt Millennials differ from previous generations immensely in their values, and housing is certainly one of them. How can we ask people to move here if we do not offer affordable, desirable, places to live? Ensuring we have housing that is not only open and available, but actually meets the preferences of the market, is paramount to successfully recruiting and retaining tomorrow’s workforce, today.

Falling into this category myself, I am going to use myself to generalize the whole populace of Millennials for purposes of this article. Other Millenials may agree or disagree with my perspective, but that’s okay because these are merely generalizations. I agree with much of this article from James Hardie regarding Millennials in the housing market.  (not trying to push a specific product…it’s just a good article in overall) It hits on three major preferences when it comes to Millennial housing: low maintenance, prime location, and smart home technology.

Low Maintenance

When it comes to our homes, most of us do not enjoy complex, time-consuming projects.  Rather, we enjoy being able to personalize our space in a relatively short time.  That way, we have more availability to spend outside of our home, whether that be going out to eat, grabbing a drink with a friend, traveling the world, etc. Being locked down to fix a leaky pipe, mow the lawn, repaint the exterior, or rake the leaves does not sound all that appealing. The less of our time and money we need to spend on our home, the better.

Location

We tend to decide where in a city we want to live rather than simply finding the “perfect house”.  The house itself may be beautiful, but if it does not have easy access to our favorite activities, we are willing to wait a bit longer and look elsewhere. If there is one take away from this: if you are trying to attract the Millennial market, don’t build rows of houses simply to satisfy the growing population numbers. It will take more thought and care in  where to build the housing in order to capture this elusive market. In other words, if you build it, we won’t necessarily come.

Home Technology

We are the first generation to be classified as “digital natives” because we have grown up being surrounded, and often engulfed, by technology.  We expect technology to be ingrained in our everyday lives, and this is no exception when it comes to our homes. Having homes that are equipped, or at least have the ability to be equipped, with the latest tech (i.e. smart thermostats, washers/dryers, light bulbs, etc.) can be a major selling point. 

One topic that the article from James Hardie does not hit on however is size and use of space. We tend to prefer experiences over things, and this drives us to look for smaller, more efficient houses that do not offer space simply for the sake of space. More space equals more to clean, maintain, and eventually….clutter. We don’t always see the value in five hundred more square feet just because it’s there. We don’t care whose is bigger.

In the end, we are looking for an affordable place to personalize, make our own, and rest our head.  After all, if we’re not at home, we are probably out socializing, traveling, or simply experiencing life.

What are your thoughts? Do you see South Dakota cities making an effort to create a marketable product for the next generation, or are there areas we can improve?  Please share below!

Josh Muckenhirn, AIA is a licensed Architect at ISG in Sioux Falls, SD. He received his M. Arch from NDSU in 2014, ventured further north for 2 years, and has called Sioux Falls home since the summer of 2016.  His claim to fame is (at one point) being able to solve a Rubik’s cube in 32 seconds.

3 Replies to “Housing the Next Generation”

  1. Brain drain is a big issue for South Dakota. I think good housing and a great place to work are the top needs for many millennials. The hip and exciting companies of Sioux Falls are being a great catalyst for the younger people. However, even these companies feel how difficult it is to reach new customers and challenge the status quo. These creative places typically use national work to supplement their business because the local audience is a tough one.

    Living in Spearfish, I saw commercial change efforts to cater to younger generations, but not residential. The housing market is also very expensive in the City of Spearfish. Affordable housing is only available in neighboring cities creating a big commute and causing more stress.

    I loved living downtown Sioux Falls. I found a place with affordable rent where the owner was not providing extra amenities that I didn’t care for/didn’t need, just to charge more for rent. Being within walking distance of my favorite restaurants was more important to me than having luxury finishes.

    1. I agree Sandra – location is a huge factor in what I personally look for in housing. To me, I would much rather be near amenities that I CHOOSE to pay for when I want to utilize them, rather than being forced to pay for amenities that I do not desire. If housing is near great restaurants, bars, event venues, etc. it does not need to provide additional amenities if that is going to increase the cost of rent. However, that’s just my preference and I understand this may not be the case for everybody.

  2. I’m curious if people are talking about Granny Flats or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) which are smaller residences constructed on the same lot as a primary single family house – attached or detached. From a quick check with zoning detached ADUs are allowed in Sioux Falls if the structure has off-street parking and is 40% of the area of the main structure. Especially in the downtown area, these could provide a less expensive nicely located option.

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