How you gonna keep them . . .

To paraphrase the classic song,"How do you keep them off of the farm now that they can’t afford the big city?" I recently helped give a presentation about affordable housing at the invitation of a group of young adults—in this case, the Young Democrats. As part of it, I distributed a short informal survey about their personal housing concerns. Not surprisingly, most respondents indicated that they would not be able to buy in Arlington during the next five years. Most also agreed or were not sure that high housing prices would require them to buy outside of Arlington.

Anecdotally, I’ve—we’ve—heard many stories about young people having difficulty even renting in Arlington, including young teachers. This “evidence” is consistent with the discussion held this past January by the Committee of 100 at its event "Tomorrow's Challenges and Today’s Facts: A View of Two Issues Uniquely Impacting Young Adults in Arlington.”  The two issues were housing and transportation.

So what does this mean for Arlington? It means we could lose . . .

We could lose the activism and volunteer contributions of the many concerned young people participating in the recent 100 Homes campaign: You know---the “kids” with the energy and ability to get up at 3 a.m. for many days in a row.

We could lose the ongoing work of groups like the Community Volunteer Network (CVN), a social network of young adults in Arlington created for volunteering, building networks, socializing, and developing leadership.

According to 2010 Census data, only 15.6% of owner-occupied housing units in Arlington are owned by  those aged 25--34, while 43.3% of Arlington’s rental stock is occupied by those in that age bracket. Overall, only 38.5% of Arlington’s owner-occupied housing is held by those 44 years old and younger---way below national averages.

Sure, life in the city is exciting and the housing market “adjustment” may be long-term, making ownership less attractive for the duration. But even if that bet is placed, there is still the issue of the lack of affordable rental units.

The young people to whom we presented were an attentive audience. They should be: they live the issues and choices the Alliance and other affordable housing advocates talk about.