Welcome to the first WTF, a new quarterly series which will attempt to answer the question: What the Future.
No. Wait. That’s not entirely correct. WTF won’t have all the answers, but it will attempt to start asking the right questions with hints as to how the future will impact the answers. This issue focuses on housing. Subsequent issues will feature the other three main consumer-spending categories: transportation, healthcare and food.
These interviews and the exclusive new research they discuss are meant to provoke some conversations at your company and, perhaps, in your household. We started with the topic of housing, since it’s the category consumers spend the most in and because it touches every industry. You’ll find that these questions lead to more questions. For instance, if people live in smaller places or more fluid homes, how does that impact their pantries and the goods they might store in them? If more people rent than own, what does that mean for financial services? If technology and design allow people to live independently longer as they age, how will that impact healthcare? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Here’s the set-up. We asked five smart people with very different perspectives this question: “Looking five or 10 years into your crystal ball, what is something you’ll wish you had tracking data on?” Then Ipsos conducted a survey to see how those questions are answered now. On our panel: Richard Florida, one of the world’s leading urbanists; Paul Soglin, who is in the second term of his third stint as mayor of Madison, Wisconsin; Lawrence Yun, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors; Mary Lunghi head of market intelligence for IKEA; and Rodney Harrell director of livability thought leadership in AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
Each wanted to examine a slice of the capital-T Trends driving housing changes—spanning the aging of America, to the urbanization of our population, to inequality. Their questions touch on topics ranging from how governments impact economic and geographic mobility; to Millennials’ desire to own homes and some truly innovative ways to help make that happen; to how we live in our current houses day-to-day and how that will change as we age. Our panelists discussed those findings with GenPop, and we present the conversations here.
Finally, futurist Amy Webb checks in from the fringes —the places outside the housing industry itself where the trends that will shape housing are gaining traction.
The last question, of course, is up to you: What questions should you and your team be asking when you think about What the Future?