Affordable Development for Millennials–bells and whistles

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Why would anyone want to connect the fashion industry to sustainable urban development?!

Anyone under 35 years of age has been socially crafted to be allowed to be more creative than their parents’ generations. Our parents’ generations started creative with the ‘60s and ‘70s and then got pigeon-holed by the ‘80s and ‘90s grind. Don’t be offended–I’m sure there are plenty of younger people who aren’t creative and plenty of older people who are very creative. It’s not personal; it’s social crafting.

Affordable housing buildings have tended to be developed in a way that insists they be boring structures. There are some very nice looking structures such as Velocity at the South Kirkland Park & Ride. Velocity even has a beautiful sign, a sweet rooftop garden, and one-of-a-kind artwork on the first floor. But this is rare. I work for the company who developed Velocity, and I’m still trying to figure out how the then-development director managed to finance all the bells and whistles.

The fashion industry has many tiers of creativity. There’s the crazy top tier with Jean Paul Gaultier– extravagant, mostly unwearable, detailed, fancy, particular, showy.  And then there’s the bottom boring tiers like Dansko or Clarks- durable, comfortable, black or brown, basic, long distance, maybe this year it’ll come in red (a deep red but still a color!). Well, affordable housing developments are like the bottom tier, the Clarks of the building world. Even some of the awesome developments we’re building today only get to a tier above the Clarks tier and those are rare.

I’m new to the industry, and I’m under 35, so naturally my initial thought that buildings are boring stems from 1) no one’s trying hard enough and 2) the industry lacks passion for art. Art is not a first world problem (so to speak). It is an innate ability to understand our surroundings and incorporate the internal lofty ephemeral world into our external stubborn built world.

My quest is to incorporate as much awesomeness into the buildings I am involved in developing as possible. They do not need to be the bells and whistles I love, but the bells and whistles of a collective community. Affordable doesn’t have to mean Dansko and Clarks (which aren’t that affordable anyway). A plethora of affordable housing means the economy can thrive because humans are truly invested in their urban spaces due to feeling safe and having this internal-external connection to the dwellings we reside in.

Banks can help us get bells and whistles. In fact, every smart company is talking about “the millennials” and trying to understand them in order to ensure business success in the near future when “the millennials” (which has begun to simply include everyone under 35) take over the economy (if we ever get around to that with our student loan bills around $1,000/month). The need for affordable housing developments is growing faster than anyone has prepared for. Banks would be very smart to jump-on-board and understand that we want cool places to live. We want cool cities to be in. This is old news. Dear banks (and counties and states and federal government–anyone funding affordable housing developments), incentivize the structures to be awesome. Fund the Clarks and then give an extra umph to the affordable projects that make cities awesome. You’ll benefit because that is what “the millennials” want, cities will benefit because there will be more money feed into the economy and savings accounts; and we get what we want, or we go elsewhere. You might say there’s limited funding; but if you’ve ever spoken to an educated millennial you know that form of thinking doesn’t fly with us. When you tell us that, we go elsewhere. If elsewhere doesn’t exist, we create it.



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