mixed breed

A “Surban” real estate trend to watch


Surban: a mixed use neighbourhood

Between city and suburban a new trend in housing is “urban” neighbourhoods


Portmanteau: a new word created by slamming two words together. A portmanteau word is formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a singular concept which the portmanteau describes. Smog is a portmanteau, combining the words smoke and fog. Labradoodle, docudrama, motorcycle, spork, frappuccino, chillax, blog… we use them all the time. 

 Surban: a suburban area that has the feel of a city area, but with walkability to retail and restaurants from a house, townhouse or apartment condo. Surban is a suburban location that has the feel of metropolitan area. It is a mix of the best of urban and suburban life. Urban planners would previously have actually described these as “mixed-use” locations, however surban is a fairly brand-new term that fits a bit better.


Attributes of these new mixed use locations include:

– Dominated by a variety of real estate choices, from single-family homes to condos to townhouses

– Surrounded by retail and shopping areas in walkable distance

– Located in suburban, not city locations

– Anchored in locations with highly-rated schools and low criminal activity rates

– Highlighted with social places such as restaurants, bars and entertainment


Much is being written about the current trend of surban living. The Urban Land Institute approximates that these locations will draw at least 80 percent of the coming wave of families and will bring in the most households in the next 10 years. Noted real estate experts John Burns and Chris Porter just recently authored a book, “Big Shifts Ahead,” and committed a whole chapter to the surban method of life.

The suburban and urban past

From 1950-1980, real estate experienced the trend of suburbia. Home owners were vacating the central city and relocating in suburban areas. They were prepared to compromise some extraordinary commute times to cities and suffer other daily experiences to live an upscale lifestyle. During this period, crime incidence rates in city locations were high and school performance ratings were generally low.

The 1990s and 2000s brought with it an age of urbanization centred around the renewal of inner cities, development of mixed-use residential or commercial properties in city locations, increased attention to public transportation, and a renewed concentrate on downtown condominiums.

The Surban Future

The concept of a downtown in the suburbs was something that no one really understood initially. It’s a really complicated proposition that required a long gestation period. But now suburban/downtown locations are popping up everywhere.

One facet of it’s mixed use quality is that there is a new focus on rental homes. The de-emphasis on ownership will be shown in coming years with soaring demand for rentals.

For the most part, real estate segments have traditionally been categorized based on single-family houses, townhomes, condos or multi-family structures. The advancement and improvement of surban living has already started mixing housing choices in a chosen locations.

Professional forecasters predict that these new mixed use neighbourhoods will replace shopping malls. Surban office demand will increase. As Gen X and millennials move into more senior management functions and start families, many will move from city cores to the surban areas to live in neighbourhoods with great schools, but which are also near employment centres and entertainment, shopping and leisure amenities.