Cities are growing. Average household size is declining. How do we respond?

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Jun. 19, 2011

Cities are growing. Today, the number of urban residents is growing by nearly 60 million every year. Between 2025 and 2030, the global urban population is expected to grow roughly 1.5 per cent per year. And by 2050, the urban population will have almost doubled, increasing from 3.4 billion in 2009 to 6.4 billion!

At the same time, the number of truly single households is growing. Already 30 per cent of Canadian households are occupied by singles, and that number is expected to hit almost 40 per cent by 2026.

And Canada isn’t alone in that change. A little Googling led me to this stat: over the next decade, single-person households across the globe are expected to grow at almost twice the rate of average population growth.

These are big shifts—changing trends that have a huge impact on the way we market real estate developments.

The fact of the matter is, sooner rather than later, the majority of the population will be living in smaller, albeit taller, spaces. Detached houses with large yards simply don’t make sense for one-person households that call the city home.

As marketers, this requires us to start looking through a wider lens. We need to view our real estate development projects within the context of a much larger frame.

So how do we do that?

Simple. Through storytelling.

We need to start telling stories that are big, deep and wide. That means talking about the area, not just your project, and scoping out the things that make the idea of living in your project particularly appealing.

First, you need to think bigger, much bigger than what you’re trying to sell. Then you need to go deep: plumb the depths around topics that provide context and credibility to your audience. And finally, you need to think about the breadth and width of your stories.

With the average household size shrinking and cities growing, no longer is it a case of “your house is your home.” The identity of who we are is wrapped up in our square footage less and less. More and more, it’s about the neighbourhood. The café on the corner becomes the breakfast room, for example. The restaurant down the street is now the living room. The park over the road is the backyard. And so on.

Story development isn’t always easy, but it’s a must in this changing landscape. With more and more individuals looking to live in the same kind of urban household, features like granite countertops and polished chrome fixtures lose their power as real differentiators.

Bottom line: Inevitable density in our urban environments requires a new kind of participation with the civic realm. One that demands that developers think bigger than themselves, and tell stories that help everyone understand things in a larger context. Change is unavoidable, and only information can help ease the transition!



David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

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David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more




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