The Changing Face of Design in the Housing Market: Industry Trends and Analysis

Source: Pixabay No Attribution Required

In coming years, the overall design of homes across the US will undergo a dramatic transformation. The raison d'être for these changes is not rooted in breakthrough technology per se, it is attributed to the demographic and economic realities on the ground. The 2008 global financial crisis, spurred in large part by the sub-prime mortgage crisis affected countless millions across the United States. The ill effects of the housing crisis linger to this day, and an entire generation of ‘disenfranchised’ millennials and others are finding it increasingly difficult to make headway in an economy which appears to be chugging along. An aging US population and rather anemic job growth, coupled with stringent banking requirements for mortgages have made it challenging for new homeowners. Consequently, out-of-the-box thinking is needed to accommodate demand for affordable housing.

Notable changes have been taking place in the market in recent years. Architectural design has ushered in an era of uniquely different layouts, community-design features, systems, and efficient living. Design trends are focused on healthy living environments, with a bevy of new homes being created at affordable market prices. Customized, repeatable designs allow for significant cost savings with pre-built, mass-produced parts at affordable prices. One of the most notable changes in the new-age economy is the growth and development of home offices. The post-recession period has given rise to a new era of employment prospects. Nowadays, a growing contingent of people are working from home, or telecommuting. Housing sizes have decreased, and the number of home offices has increased significantly. With blurred lines between work life and home life, lifestyle modifications have entered the architectural design process.

Downscaling & Upgrading: The Conundrum Solved

The economic downturn resulted in downscaling of suburban tract housing projects. This facilitated a shift towards much smaller projects, oftentimes of a commercial nature. The growth of high-density urban development resulted in many new amenities for residents in the area. Of course, attention to bathrooms and kitchens is central to the new design process. Technological innovation has been implemented into the infrastructures of modern-day homes. Computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, phablets, smart TVs, smart security systems, and other emergent trends are now the norm. Home management is a click away, and this type of technology is pervasive in newly constructed units. Yet, cost considerations are central to the discussion of new housing developments across the US. Bold entrepreneurs are entering the housing market, with fresh, new ideas geared towards rapid, affordable, and aesthetically pleasing new developments.

It's entirely possible to comfortably transform a standard apartment with 1 bedroom, 2-bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining room into a 2, 3- or 4-bedroom unit. Several notable projects have been brought to market, including 674 23rd Street in Oakland California which boasts modern live/work units with an industrial feel, crafted from original wood at an affordable price. Space-saving construction with adaptable family housing at an affordable price is the new way that designers are bringing luxury-style living to individuals and families across the US. The particular project is headed by oWOW’s co-founder and CEO Danny Haber, who tapped into the niche market with the construction of standardized kits for building repeatable and customized units at affordable prices for homeowners. The market in Oakland is notable, given that Annie Campbell Washington (former vice mayor) has expressed optimism for these new-age developments which support low-cost living, with a flexible wall system known as ‘Magic Walls’ allowing apartments to comfortably accommodate a greater number of tenants within the same living space, albeit with a completely redesigned floorplan.

Demographic Changes Expected to Impact Design and Demand

While many designers, developers, and real estate moguls are focused on high-end unaffordable projects, new homeowners are seeking out alternatives that are affordable, lifestyle oriented, and attractive to live in. This has resulted in an opening in the market. The 674 23rd Street live and work-style apartments allow tenants to have personal workspaces which dovetails with the modern economy. This low-cost alternative facilitates home-based business activity, allowing tenants and homeowners to enjoy the best of both worlds. Prefabricated cross-laminated timber systems in vertical high-rise buildings are enjoying strong growth prospects. Vertically-integrated development companies are a relative rarity, but the popularity of companies like oWOW are drawing tremendous interest from tenants and investors.

Demographic changes will undoubtedly re-shape the housing market, as the baby boomers move towards retirement, and population growth slows. The number of people aged 65+ is rapidly increasing, and is expected to become a major component of the overall population. Generation Xers are an integral component of the housing market, but they are also the demographic most impacted by the hard times which ensued post 2008. It comes as no surprise that many young people are staying at home longer, since it is unaffordable to branch out and own their own property, or lease affordable housing. New home developments are slowing to a degree, creating opportunities for affordable housing developers to step in and ply their proverbial trade.

An increasing number of investments are being made on existing housing stock rather than building new homes. We can expect ongoing expansion and redesign of existing structures to take place at a steady clip. Within the next 10 years, most baby boomers will be 65+, and they will be incorporating various accessibility features into their real estate projects. A focus on smaller and better designed homes is already a reality that homeowners and tenants are contending with. Construction of new residences in established locations near public transportation and commercial enterprise is the norm. Residential architects understand the changing needs of the population and are seeking out personalized design elements with desirable real estate. Efficiency, affordability, and aesthetically-beautiful homes are now a reality with many new housing projects currently under development.