Thursday, August 6, 2015

Millennials And Olde Farts

If you've been perusing the few active Dunwoody blogs you don't really have much of a life but you've probably noticed a couple of posts that appear to be about demographics but whose real stories are about development. Superficially one is about Millennials whilst the other is about Olde Farts. In the main both are used as a smokescreen to justify developers' high density housing ambitions. Whether it is  Papier-mâché apartments built like a wasp's nest or Bill Grant's clutter home McMansions, brownfield is about the only remaining model in Dunwoody and that is inherently going to increase the number of bedrooms per square foot.

The Millennial post is anti-apartment suggesting that agenda-driven characterizations of Millennials' behaviours, wants and needs are actually off-target. Even mass media reports are backing away from the propaganda of "No cars, No homes, No suburbs" since more recent studies have noted that Millennials' actually want these things perhaps even more than previous generations but simply cannot afford them. They are not living the "good life of Friends" because it's really cool but because they have student loans to pay.

And they don't just want a home in the 'burbs to start a family and raise the kids, they want a home at least as good as their parents' home. A Dunwoody Four-by-Four is what they consider a minimal, but acceptable starter home. Who knew?

In contrast the notions around "Senior Friendly" are equally off the mark but are being used as as a stick to beat down the number of town homes in the Parkway proposal. Aging in place is also quite the social-engineering buzzword amongst our political elite in spite of the unchallenged assumption that this is the place where anyone would really want to age. In common usage AiP means modifications to your existing home including wider doors, no stairs (or stair lift chairs), elimination of trip points, safety bars and accessible facilities. Senior Friendly, even for active seniors, often means one-level living, be it a high rise in Sandy Springs or a ranch in an active retirement community on Lake Lanier and most importantly it means "smaller than where we raised our family." Who really wants to heat, cool and clean unused bedrooms, baths and velvet rope living rooms? What this demographic most often looks for is an 1800 square foot two bedroom with an "open concept", not 3800 square foot three level with a man cave.

But that's not the direction our social engineers are pushing the Parkway developer. Under the banner of "Senior Friendly" the politicians' proposal is a "Master On Main." This does absolutely nothing to address the issues around "car parked in the basement" with the most obvious problem being shlepping yourself and your groceries up those stairs. It also ignores the fact that every month or so someone has to hobble up the stairs to scare the spiders out of the unused bedrooms and flush the toilets. What would address the stair-problem would be residential elevators and/or dumbwaiters, but these do little to restrict density. On the other hand, to avoid turning the living room of a reasonably sized town home into the Master On Main the footprint and overall size balloons approaching 4000 square foot. Unlike lifts this does nothing for Senior residents but guarantees a density reduction, apparently close to twenty percent.

Low density is the real agenda linking these two, one dispelling the convenient untruths about Millennials and the other promoting mischaracterizations of Olde Farts.  So the notion that Dunwoody should do anything other than discourage high density rental development based on the Myths of Millennials has quite a bit of merit and no small amount of intellectual integrity. On the other hand some relatively affordable town homes an easy, no crossing walk away from one of Dunwoody's better elementary schools might be very appealing to fit, young and able Millennials ready to revert to the mean of 2.4 kids. For Olde Farts, not so much. Perhaps we should encourage high density, high rise resident-owned condo developments well placed and well suited to Olde Farts and let the town home developers address the needs of next generation residents with next generation housing in a next generation location.