They don’t have kids – they have disposable income. And they’re coming to a bedroom community near you
By Steven Sandor | July 1, 2023
When we think of young professionals or couples who don’t have kids, the stereotype is that they live in urban environments. They walk from their condos or row houses to buy single-serve-size items from the downtown grocery store. Their bikes patrol the streets of the core and Old Strathcona. When they’re not on bikes, they’re on scooters. They’re at the farmers’ markets on the weekends and meet friends for beer or cocktails in the evenings.
The single or DINK (dual income, no kids) demographic is growing in Canada. But, in terms of real estate, they’re not buying where the stereotype suggests. They’re finding value in Edmonton’s new neighbourhoods and the suburbs.
“What I can tell you for sure is that we’re seeing more single buyers and couples without kids,” says Collin Campbell, president of Mattamy Homes’ Alberta Division. “More and more are buying now than in the past years, by quite a bit. We’re seeing those trends in all our markets, too.”
Those spikes are seen in Mattamy communities currently being built in Sherwood Park and the Stillwater development, in southwest Edmonton between 199th Street and Winterburn Road.
So, why are the DINKs choosing to move outside of the Henday ring? While their wish lists may be a bit different than buyers who have families, the core demands are similar. They both want amenities close to their doors — and many of them can’t be found close at hand in more established, central neighbourhoods.
“We put a lot of emphasis on designing a complete community,” says Campbell. “That introduces many layers of amenities, with a huge focus on walkability and making the community more of a destination, creating the commercial, shopping and recreation spaces, so our homeowners don’t have to venture out to enjoy their preferred lifestyle.
“That’s a change from the past, when buyers without kids may have preferred to look at the inner city or downtown. The complete community is something you can get outside of the downtown core, now.”
Kalen Anderson, a former city planner who is now the executive director for Edmonton Metro’s Urban Development Institute, says the wishes of couples without kids aren’t that different from any other demographic.
“Regardless of whether someone is living in Oliver — Edmonton’s highest density neighbourhood — or a brand-new community south of the Henday, people are looking for a diversity of amenities to meet their needs,” she stated in an email. “The same holds true for large families and single person households, and for young folks and the elderly. Access to parks, commercial spaces, recreational facilities, and natural spaces are important. Ideally, there would be a wide diversity of places and spaces for people to enjoy at all times of the day, be it for seniors to watch their grandkids in a park mid-morning, teenagers to meet up with friends in the evening or working people with jobs who want to be able to refresh and relax.”
A Statistics Canada study released in 2022 showed that nearly two million Canadians are in DINK living arrangements. That’s enough people for one and a half Edmontons. And the median income for DINKs is nearly $90,000.
And while we hear a lot about living in small spaces, the truth is that there are people out there who want square footage, even if they have no kids. Campbell says the no-kids demographics aren’t just attracted to smaller townhomes or row houses, but to detached homes, as well. Just because a person or couple don’t have kids, it doesn’t mean they want to live small. They want to host parties, have friends over to watch the game or enjoy a backyard barbecue.
And then there are the dogs.
“Maybe a bit larger of a home in terms of square footage for entertaining friends is a desire,” Campell says.
“And one thing we’ve noticed is that some couples may choose not to have kids, but their families may include an increasing number of pets. Park space is a huge desire, as well as backyard space for a dog is something that may be out of reach in terms of price points in the inner city or the downtown core. In our communities, the affordability certainly helps.”
Campbell says that developers would like to get more townhomes on the market, but, because of City of Edmonton permitting rules, it’s harder to build this type of home than any other. Townhomes have a longer permitting process — according to the City of Edmonton, it takes 70 days to approve side by side row houses and 120 days to approve stacked row houses. An infill house will take just 35 days to approve, and a greenfield development takes 20 days.
Because developers and/or builders have to carry mortgage costs and risk, the longer it takes to get the shovels in the ground, the more expensive it is. And, with inflation where it is right now, what it costs to build a home two or three months from now could be much greater than the present.
“It adds risk to timelines, it adds risk to costs,” says Campbell. “It is a product type that is more challenging to get approved through the permitting process than single-family would be. The deterrent exists in the development industry for something that’s supposed to be more affordable.”