October 15, 2015
RECA's October Ideas Forum took place at The Four Seasons Hotel on October 15. A panel of millennials discussed how their generation is shaping the industry's landscape and what kinds of trends they're seeing in the marketplace. The discussion was moderated by Mike Clark-Madison of Hahn Communications, and the panelists included Carter Sackman, Jr. of Sackman Austin, Kristi Svec Simmons of Aquila Commercial, Nelson Crowe of Forestar Group and Omar Hossain of Frost Bank.
While older generations often give millennials grief about their lifestyles, communication skills and work habits, the panel discussed how the two generations may be a lot more alike than they think — especially when it comes to higher-density development.
"Millennials are a growing demographic, but we have to remember that seniors are too," Sackman said. "Both demographics want to live more central and be a part of a community."
Simmons said it can be hard to balance the differences between what younger people want and what older people want in an office space.
"Now, the people I'm showing office spaces to are surprised if a layout has individual offices and isn't just wide open," she said.
The panel also talked about what kind of neighborhoods millennials are gravitating to, and discussed how their desire to be a part of a group plays a key role.
"Millennials want to a real lifestyle and sense of community where they live," Crowe said.
Millennials are also holding off on buying their first home until later in life, they said.
"Millennials have higher expectations and many are adverse to pigeonholing themselves by buying a home," Sackman said.
Although they may be waiting longer to buy a home, Hossain said they aren't afraid to spend money.
"There's no question — millennials aren't afraid to spend money," he said. "They are definitely bigger risk takers than previous generations."
The panelists hope millennials will continue to shift away from car ownership. They said not being required to have as much parking in their developments would give them more flexibility to add amenities like gyms, co-working spaces - and maybe even offer lower rents.
"People still want cars because there's parking available," Crowe said. "If there's simply less parking, you'll find that many people will be fine and happy without it."
Madison brought up that even though millennials say they want things like higher density and better transit options, their political involvement still remains low. Simmons agreed.
"I think millennials have to feel the real impact of political decisions before they want to get involved," Simmons said. "When they start feeling it as they get older, they'll become more dedicated."
Another reason for the lack of participation from millennials, the panelists said, could be because newer, younger residents don't feel truly a part of the community.
"There's this belief out there that you're not really a part of Austin until you've lived here for a certain length of time," Sackman said.