Analysis: Smarter, denser land use can attract and retain young adults

A great post by Kaid Benfield at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s site Switchboard: Why smarter land use can help cities attract and retain young adults

Benfield quotes from Richard Florida’s The Great Reset and then notes some interesting research showing Connecticut, of all places, has been losing population in the 25 to 34 age range and cites a study that gives a pretty direct explanation. From that post:

Combining all age groups, [Connecticut] as a whole grew during that period, albeit half as fast as the national average. But it did grow faster than some and much faster than, for instance, neighborhing Rhode Island. As we all know, there’s major industry in Connecticut, and I’m told that it also has very high average housing prices compared to the rest of the country, suggesting that there is continuing demand.

So what’s the problem? Why is Connecticut losing so many of its young adults? And what do the facts suggest for other places hoping to prosper in the new economy?

I’m not going to say that the reasons for this apparent “brain drain” are all about the built environment – there must be multiple economic factors in play – but [a report by Jonathan Rose Companies and Wallace Roberts Todd for the Hartford metropolitan planning organization] says just that:

“The primary reason for this drop is an outmigration of this younger demographic group due to a lack of housing choices that are affordable, convenient and desirable. Housing that is affordable and also conveniently connected to jobs, transportation, and quality neighborhood services became increasingly scarce, while median home prices in the State continued to rise. Meanwhile, recent trends have shown that younger homebuyers and empty-nesters are rejecting large-lot suburban homes for smaller homes in compact, walkable communities. This marked decrease in its young workforce sector represents a real risk to a loss in the region and state’s economic competitiveness.”

As Benfield details in the post, the data quite clearly shows that today’s young adults are far more likely to want urban living than their predecessors, are far more likely to trade residential square footage for traits like walkability, and generally are challenging many of the older generations’ notions of how and where middle class Americans should live.


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