Settling and the good life in the future

Jesper Bo Jensen, Ph.d., Futurist / 21. nov 2017

We all seek a good life. Of course, we’d like to go on holidays, parties and cultural events, but it’s everyday life that matters the most. As Dan Turéll said it, “I like everyday life, but more than anything I like everyday life”.

Everyday life is work and coworkers, neighbors, the local supermarket, the children’s school and daycare where parents meet each other mornings and afternoons. Everyday life is taking the kids to sports, scouts, playing in nature and for the adults, fitness or running. Everyday life is evenings in the home, dinners with friends, playdates in the afternoon, laundry and cleaning. Everyday life is parents visiting for coffee, lunch in the garden or a visit to your childhood home.

The good life is when your everyday life works. Good schools, daycare taking care of your kids, friend and family close by. It’s safety in the local neighborhoods, safe traffic on the way to school and predictability.

The good life for young people
Young people would rather live at the center of a big or larger city. The size of what they live in doesn’t matter too much as long as it’s located centrally where they can feel the cities heartbeat. Young people from 19 to 29 seek the good life in university towns with citylife, cafes and shopping. They usually want to be right in the middle of everything and the good life takes place with fellow students and other young people. But shopping opportunities, transport in the shape of busses, trains and metro also play a role. Leisure activites are attractive and young people want to be close to everything. They also find Green spaces, parks and nature close to home very attractive.

Bicycle lanes and paths as well as proximity to university/work and to their families are also priorities. Being close to their families might be hard if they’re moving a long way to go to university, but young people still prioritize it. Neighbors aren’t important to them – but they will be later in life.

What do families with children look for when moving?
When a young family moves out of a larger city, their goal is often to find a suitable home. Our research into settling shows that they’re not willing to compromise with the standards of the house. They’d rather compromise with the distance to their work. The families are attracted by high quality houses. The shape, size and location of the home are critical in deciding where to settle. The home has to be big – Very few seek a minimalist house. The price is also a determining factor when looking at the family’s income. It turns out that young families move relatively far away to have the size and quality that they want. That means the home in itself and its location means more than distance and whether it’s a postal code in a specific expensive municipality. Who needs a postal code anyway when you only receive things over e-mail and e-boks? The decision for the younger families is taken based on what they can afford. The pre-approval of loans by banks has exacerbated this trend.

For the surroundings of the home, families want nature, forests (and beaches if possible), parks and green areas as well as playgrounds. Families with children are also preoccupied with nice neighbours with children and living close to their friends.

What do senior citizens look for when moving?
If the children have moved out and if it’s time to move, there are several factors influencing senior citizens. The group isn’t preoccupied with cafés and nightlife close to their homes, distance to work loses its significance, school and daycare doesn’t matter much either. On the other hand, nature, forests, beaches, public transport, good shopping opportunities, nice neighbors and proximity to family do. That’s why seniors often stay in the places they’re familiar with. If they move, it’s typically to an apartment in the city or to a summerhouse far away. They move to the summerhouse municipalities and the big city municipalities. In the larger cities they still want plenty of space and calm surroundings.

Where do we move to?
Where we move to in the country is, according to our research, influenced by a number of circumstances. Work and the geographical and infrastructural location of it are major factors. Where the rest of the family lives is also a big deal – especially to families with toddlers and to seniors. In addition, an appealing city center means a lot to those living in the single-family houses surrounding it.

We also know that friends matter. We prefer living close to our friends and in the same areas. The place you grew up in and came from, matters a great deal. There’s a Path-Addiction when it comes to settling. That is, an addiction to the path that your life has followed so far. People from the north of Jutland want to go back to North Jutland, those from Copenhagen want to settle near Copenhagen and those raised on Funen want to go back to Funen. It’s most common in the municipalities adjacent to Copenhagen and in North Jutland. In both places a large part of the population is living close to their childhood homes. If you’re raised in a single-family house, you also want that for yourself when you’re a father or mother, than if you’re raised in other kinds of residential areas.

The geography is typically more influenced by her job than his, since women to a higher degree than men want to live close to where they work. Women’s transport distance to work is significantly shorter than men’s. Past history on the housing market and the family’s location might similarly affect in two different directions in a relationship.

Areas of settlement rather than municipalities
For a number of years, municipal branding has been in vogue. Municipalities think that they can lure in new people to their area, by telling them how lovely it is there. Our research shows clearly, that people don’t move to a municipality but instead to an area of settlement. In Skanderborg municipality, four areas had defining characteristics in people’s minds. You knew Skanderborg city, Ry was seen as part of the Silkeborg area, Galten was near the freeway and affordable, while Hørning was seen as part of Aarhus. It’s the same trend that we’ve observed in other municipalities in Denmark. You don’t move to a municipality, but to an area of settlement.

How Danes settle isn’t determined by spectacular initiatives, municipal branding or other modern marketing ploys. We move for everyday life! Over the last 10 years, we’ve conducted over 600 in-depth interviews with Danes, including a lot on settling and homes. In addition to these are also a number of quantitative surveys. The answer is crystal clear: The Danes move for everyday life.

Can the municipalities assist in creating a good life – and how?
As a municipality, if you want more citizens to move in and settle, it’s possible to do it the right way, rather than how many municipalities like doing it – that is, by talking about itself. The right thing consists of strengthening the everyday life for the groups of people you want to attract.
That means, people with children are attracted by creating good daycare options and really good schools. Making traffic safe by making better roads, bicycle lanes and public transport also plays a significant role. Easy access to grocery shopping also attracts. A strengthening of leisure activities, sports clubs and volunteering opportunities is also important.

New monuments, in the shape of ‘prestige projects’, stadiums, museums, multimedia houses or other massive municipal investments, won’t bring in new residents. On the contrary it’ll drain resources from services such as schools, daycare and leisure activities. The good life is found in the everyday life and a strengthening of that will attract more residents.
Care for everyday life and bring in more residents to your municipality!

Published here 2017

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