It is a dilemma as old and as common as the family squabble: More family time or more space? Quaint shops or quiet cul-de-sac? The conflict is the basis for the Canadian-made HGTV show, Urban Suburban, which airs its second season this fall.
Brother-sister real estate team Philip DuMoulin and Sarah Daniels take jabs at each other while local families are along for a real estate tour of competing options. Families then choose a home located either urban or suburban.
DuMouline champions city living, while Daniels reveals the perks of life in the suburbs.
Filmed in major cities across Canada, including Calgary, homeowners encounter the same problem, although each city has unique qualities to consider.
“Calgary is an anomaly among the cities,” says Daniels. “The city has grown so quickly. The suburbs are not independent cities like Oakville is to Toronto and Burnaby is to Vancouver.
“Calgary has more of the traditional suburbs. A development like Aspen Woods has Sobeys and Starbucks and a mall but for most part, the people commute downtown. In a bedroom community in Vancouver, they live and work in their area.”
This season, viewers will see local homebuyers debate south Calgary versus Riverbend, and Marda Loop versus Aspen Woods. The show offers insights into relationship dynamics, as well as dispelling biases on life in potential communites.
Surprisingly, many male buyers want a large yard and big house, while the wife says, “by the way — I am not cleaning that big house.”
Daniels says viewers may assume the females would be the homesteaders, but the women on the show actually fear leaving the core and losing out on their social connections, says Daniels.
“People have this idea the suburbs will be all cookie-cutter and you have to buy mom jeans and all coolness will be gone, and you’ll never see your friends again,” she says, adding she lives with three dogs in a beach community — and drives to Vancouver to meet up with the girls for dinner every week.
Meanwhile, DuMouline plays the role of annoying younger brother on the show and in real life. He is dad to three kids — six-year-old twins and a 13-year-old daughter, while his wife ponders returning to work part time in Surrey, B.C.
Although he doesn’t live in the inner city, on the show he advocates for urban living: “Less commute time means more family time,” he says, noting Vancouver’s downtown housing stock is out of reach price-wise, compared to Calgary.
Also, Vancouver’s downtown is now home to conveniences once only found on the outskirts, such as a Costco nestled among tall residential towers.
Obviously, there are traditional merits of urban living, he says.
“More established amenities, hospitals, more established schools and heritage or culture of the city.”
The show plays on the stereotypes people have about living in certain communities. Part of the fun is witnessing the shift in perception when myths are debunked.
DuMouline also knows first-hand a big myth of urban versus suburban living.
“The biggest fallacy we have discovered is if you move to the ‘burbs you will lose your friends,” he says.
“It is not that you move away — it is the fact your life changes when you have kids. It is new social groups. Preschool and kindergarten parents — they become the de-facto friends.”
“At 31 with kids, I never saw the old friends again. It was not proximity at all. It was my life got in the way.”