The Day of 8 Billion – What Does It Mean for the Property Industry?
On 15th November 2022 humanity reached a significant milestone: a population of 8 billion. This is an exciting achievement for the human race, and something that the UN encourages us to celebrate.
However, some might view this figure with trepidation. What can such a large population mean for our planet?
Yes, our growing size is cause for increased consideration of what we do, and how we treat, our modern-day environment; especially in light of issues such as global warming and the deforestation of our planet’s largest green zones.
It is also important to understand how we got to this figure and think about where we are going in the future.
The UN’s 8 Trends for a World of 8 Billion People is an interesting insight into both of these areas.
So, in light of this historic event, we’re taking each of the 8 trends described by the United Nations, looking at them through the lens of housebuilding, to see what they could mean for the property industry in the coming years.
1. Slowing Growth
Although there are more humans on the planet than ever before, it is taking longer for our numbers to grow than it has done for previous generations. It has taken 15 years, for instance, to get from a population of 6 billion people to 7 billion; whereas it only took 12 years to get from 5 billion to 6 billion.
This slowing of growth, however, is still growth, and with the property industry in mind, this still means that the demand for housing is ever rising and should remain a focus for decades to come.
The UN predict the population of the human race will peak around 2080, when it is estimated to reach a total of 10.4 billion people. After this, the number is predicted to remain at this level for the rest of the century.
That means at least an additional 3 billion people (more than double the entire population of China, which is currently the world’s most populated country), each of whom will need somewhere to live.
In terms of the housing industry and what this means for the coming years, it is advisable to think not only about the number of houses, or homes, being built each year, but also about the availability of the houses you are building.
Affordable Housing is a beneficial investment, providing much help in the housing shortage and allowing those who cannot otherwise afford a home of their own to climb that first step of the property ladder.
Another area that property developers can wisely invest in is build-to-rent schemes. Again, the availability of these properties can be an attractive option for people who might be unable to afford the deposit required to obtain a mortgage and find themselves better suited to living in rented accommodation.
The production of housing of any sort is paramount, as we continue to see our numbers increase and with it, the requirements of homing such a large population.
2. Fewer Children
It might surprise some to know that, even though our numbers are growing, this has nothing to do with fertility rates, which are in fact falling everywhere. Back in 1950, the average births per woman was 5; now in 2022 it is 2.3 and is estimated to drop to 2.1 by 2050.
It is our increased life expectancy that ultimately leads to our population growth.
What this means for our world of 8 billion people and the coming years is that we find ourselves in a world with fewer children, or, more specifically, a world where the percentage of children (aged 0-14) is declining.
In light of this development, it might be wise for housebuilders and developers to consider how they market the smaller rooms in their properties. Where nurseries and rooms for children have previously been high on buyers’ wishlists, in the coming years, these rooms might be better marketed as home offices, games rooms, home cinemas, or other purposes with an adult-centred focus.
Although children are still being born, and traditionally children’s rooms will still be required, the increasing percentage of homes being bought that will not have young children living in them means an alternative use for these rooms should be advertised.
3. Longer Lives
On every continent, people are living longer.
There is up to 34 years’ difference in life expectancy, depending on the region. The longest living countries – Australia, Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR and Japan – have an estimated life expectancy of 85 years or more, whereas countries with higher mortality rates – Central Africa Republic, Chad, Lesotho and Nigeria – have a life expectancy of only 54 years. Despite these huge disparities, the gap is narrowing. Life expectancy is rising in the countries where it is currently low, while life expectancy slows in the countries where it is currently higher.
With our time on this planet increasing, so does our footprint, both carbon and otherwise (our waste production, water usage, food consumption, etc.). It has therefore never been more important for us to take great consideration in our day-to-day habits and the knock-on effect they have on our environment and on the world we are leaving for future generations.
Unfortunately, the construction industry is responsible for 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions. With homes in high demand for our ever-increasing population, it is more important than ever to strive towards net zero targets and supply renewable energy solutions, such as solar panels and air- and ground-source heat pumps, to the new homes being built.
As well as making improvements to the carbon emissions we are directly responsible for, housebuilders can also have a positive impact by influencing and educating their buyers, or home users, on how to live sustainably in their new homes.
Sustainability and Community Guides can be a great asset in this endeavour, as can eco-friendly welcome gifts, that provide a sustainable alternative to products that are used every day.
4. People On the Move
While nearly 29 out of every 30 people remain in their country of birth, the number of people crossing borders to live elsewhere is rising. In some countries, where fertility rates are low, migration is the sole reason for population growth. In other regions, including Eastern Europe, emigration is a large factor in population decline, with more people leaving than coming in or being born there.
What is challenging about this trend, argues the UN, is that it is difficult to predict. The sudden migration out of Ukraine in 2022 was unforeseeable, as are other social and cultural incidents that lead to such a movement of people across borders.
The way this increase in migration will shape our future is uncertain. However, one step that housebuilders can take is to be prepared for buyers who have come from overseas.
Employing bilingual or multilingual staff, who can translate marketing and sales materials, legal documents and agreements, and even be a point of contact for non-native speaking buyers would be a good investment for future-proofing the sales suite of new developments. Ensuring that marketing materials are inclusive, representing buyers from across the globe, would also be a worthy use of resources.
Once your buyers have moved in, you can also be of help to get them settled in their new environment. Creating an inclusive sense of community on your developments can start as easily as holding events for new homeowners. Here, you can encourage the new residents to mingle, maybe even providing information on what is available in the local area, so that like-minded hobbyists can get to know each other.
In a world where people are on the move, you never know where your next buyer is coming from, so it is good to be prepared.
5. Aging Populations
The decline in fertility, added to the rise in life expectancy, means that populations are aging fast. In 2018, for the first time in history, people aged 65 or over outnumbered those aged 5 and under. By 2050, the UN predicts that the number of people aged 65 and over will be over twice the number of those aged 5 and under.
For housebuilders, this might mean new considerations during the planning and designing of homes for future developments. As the percentage of older people increases, so do the age-appropriate requirements of their living spaces.
A ‘House for Life’ approach to design can be a great selling point to an older buyer. For instance, creating homes with space for lifts or stairlifts; hallways that are wide enough for the passage of wheelchairs; easy access baths or showers with room for a seat. These features would greatly benefit an older buyer and enable them to continue living in your homes well into their old age.
Another review-worthy feature of new developments that can be advertised in your marketing and influenced by you, is the community aspect of the development. Creating a hub, whether it be green spaces for walks or a built centre where activities can be held, can mean a lot to a retired buyer.
In a world of aging populations, our homes will need to fit our requirements and it is never too soon to plan for the future.
6. Women Outliving Men
Across the globe, nearly 106 boys are born to every 100 girls; however, women outlive men, nearly everywhere. As a result of weaker immune systems, likelihood of cardiovascular disease at a younger age and riskier behaviours through adolescence and adulthood, men die in higher numbers than women. The result is a population where men outnumber women only slightly, and not at all in their later years, as a women’s life expectancy is, on average, 5 years longer than men’s. Women outnumber men in nearly all older populations, globally making up 55.7% of all people aged 65 and over in 2022.
This trend of women living longer than men, and making up a larger percentage of the older population, is worth considering when planning and designing future developments.
Whether male or female, living alone is commonplace among the elderly in today’s world. If we are to cater to this growing portion of our society, it means thinking about what they might be looking for in a home.
Time and time again, we hear stories of lone-living elderly people having to cope with feelings of fear or loneliness in their homes. What could a developer do to help them overcome these feelings? Increased measures of security might be of benefit in feeling safe at home, or community-focused events to help them get to know their neighbours might help them to feel more secure in their surroundings.
Whatever can be done to help people feel safe and secure in their homes is of benefit to any person living alone and to those aged 65 or more, even more so. Measures taken to make improvements in these areas are a great investment for your homes going forward.
7. Two Pandemics
In 2020 and 2021, Covid 19 led to 14.9 million more deaths than had been expected based on previous years, says the UN.
The effect pandemics have on our population figures are alarming. This cannot be predicted in the estimated population growth of the human race.
Some scientists are arguing that the situation we found ourselves in during the Covid 19 pandemic, may be a more frequent occurrence once glaciers have melted beyond a certain level and released the bacteria contained in them, such as anthrax and the bubonic plague.
If this were to happen, lockdowns may have to happen across the globe once more, as we find ourselves in a situation of trying to control the spreading of these dangerous bacteria. What could be done to help homeowners if they are forced to stay at home again, or even, periodically?
One thing to think about, might be methods to bring a little bit of the outside into the home. Think windows, ceiling lanterns, Juliet balconies and other ways of making the inside of your homes feel connected to the outside world.
As we mentioned in our ‘fewer children’ trend, home offices are now an increasing priority for homebuyers and as the years go by, this trend is only going to continue as they gain height on the wishlists. The usefulness of these during another pandemic goes without saying. This is also true of spaces that could be used for gym equipment or rooms large enough for exercise, generally.
So, whether you want to make the house feel open and airy for the further instances of lockdowns, or if you want to focus on practical adjustments to help with working and maintaining physical health at home for your buyers in the case of further pandemics, there are things homebuilders can do to help their buyers get through lockdowns of the future.
8. Shifting Centres
Across the globe, regions are growing at different rates. The impact of this is that it shifts the distribution of the global population geographically. As of 2022, for example, over half the world’s population lives in Asia, but by 2060, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to be the world’s most populous region, when it is predicted to reach 3.4 billion.
Although the centres of highest populations are shifting, this does not detract from the increase of the population generally. In the UK, for instance, the population is projected to rise by another 2.1 million by the mid 2030s.
In the UK, a lot of this growth is set to happen through immigration, as the UK is a country where the birth rate is almost at replacement level (the amount of births per woman required to sustain the number of people living in that region). So, the demand for housing continues to increase, as does the need to be able to provide this housing to people for whom English is possibly not their first language.
This last of the 8 trends is therefore another indicator that developers should be thinking about the increasing demand for housing, how to make that as available to the masses as possible and also, what those masses will need from both their homes and the developers they are buying them from. Both affordable housing and build-to-rent developments can help with the housing shortage and the implementation of multilingual practices and staff can help with the increasing number of buyers moving into the UK from overseas.
Implementing the Evolving Requirements to Home a Population of 8 Billion
As a company that services the property industry, we are excited to see what the future holds for our partner developers and see how they rise to the coming challenges of an increasing population.
The UN’s ‘8 Trends for a World of 8 Billion People’ is an interesting insight into our species and where we are headed. Looking at the trends through a housebuilding lens provokes much thought on what will happen to the industry in the coming years.
We hope you found some inspiration here on what might become topics of focus when looking for your future developments. For a further insight into the changing trends of our growing population, read the feature in full on the UN’s website.