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Boomers continue to influence housing market

Much has been written about baby-boomers -- their numbers, culture and economic impact. This generation has had, and will continue to have, a very significant impact on the housing market as well.

The largest annual increase in number of births occurred between 1945 and 1946 (15 per cent), which started the boom. The largest decrease was between 1964 and 1965 (-8 per cent), thereby ending the boom.

During the boom period, the average number of children per woman was 3.7, as opposed to under 1.7 now. It's therefore no surprise that this same generation has had and will continue to have a significant influence on housing demands.

In the 1970s, Canadian housing starts reached record numbers thanks to boomer buying patterns. Children of boomers, or echo-boomers, have been driving the market recently. Their impact continues to be felt today and will do so into the future.

Some believe that boomers may create a negative effect on the market as they move towards retirement. The argument is that this group will be moving exclusively into condos and retirement homes, thereby leaving a glut of empty homes behind.

But recent experiences here do not support this theory. Winnipeg has one of the lowest inventories of resale-home listings in Western Canada. We have less than half the number per capita in Calgary or Saskatoon. When you consider that more than 10,000 immigrants arrive in this city every year, it's clear that the market can sustain additional housing choices.

As well, not all retirees opt for downsizing or away from single-family detached housing either. Many stay in their current houses and choose to renovate in ways that help them adapt to certain age limitations. Others move from two-storey homes to bungalows -- their children may have moved out, but there needs to be room for visits from grandchildren.

Lifestyle also will continue to be a major factor in determining where boomers want to live. If they spend a portion of the year down south, they will want a home that does not require constant attention. Unlike older areas, walking paths are an important aspect of new community design, and having nearby recreation facilities is a key influencer in boomer home selection.

Baby-boomers are not fading away anytime soon. They will continue to have a strong influence on housing choices in Winnipeg and throughout Canada.

Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Homebuilders' Association.

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