The Young and Hip Are Discovering the Small-Town Advantage

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The Young and Hip Are Discovering the Small-Town Advantage

There has been a great deal of talk about the housing boom lately and whether or not the bubble will burst. (Recent figures indicate that it won’t.) But what’s not being talked about much is how the rising cost of housing is driving young people away from the large urban areas, such as New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago.

In the past, it has been a revered tradition for young people just out of college — especially those young people who wished to pursue a career in the arts — to move into cheap housing in big cultural meccas like New York and then work their way up.

But a policy research group in New York called The Center for an Urban Future and the economic development consulting firm,Mt. Auburn Associates, recently reported that artists and other creative workers are leaving New York for other cities, because The Big Apple is just too expensive.

Meanwhile, recognizing the trend, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to establish 65,000 new affordable housing units across the city, according to USA Today.

A report from the Brookings Institution shows that young people are moving away from the big cities into more affordable markets just to make ends meet. For a New Yorker, this may mean going to Hartford, Connecticut, or to Philadelphia.

The reasons are complex, but aggressive speculation in city-center real estate has certainly had an influence. In the U.S., the median price of a single-family home is $218,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. In San Francisco, it’s $721,900 — or three times the median. In New York it’s almost half a million dollars, not counting Manhattan. Boston is in the same league. And rents aren’t cheap, either.

What this boils down to is that if a person earns the median income, he can’t afford to buy a house or condo and may not be able to rent an apartment, either. Today, only 2 percent of the homes in Los Angeles are within reach of the median income earner. In Boston, the figure is 24 percent, but that’s still discouraging to young people on their way up and trying to save.

The reasons that real estate prices have skyrocketed vary from place to place. For example, in Silicon Valley, the tech boom pushed prices up, and they didn’t come down after the bust. Manhattan prices have always been pushed in an upward direction, because there’s no place to expand on an island. But in most places, they have been driven up by speculation and hype.

The move toward turning old factories into trendy new condos within walking distance of urban centers attracted a lot of aging Baby Boomers who had previously lived in the suburbs...

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