Roper: What ‘affordability’ means to millennials

By Rob Roper

An interesting article from CNBC discusses why millennials are buying homes and settling down in several Midwestern towns in places like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. The answer isn’t really a shocker — it’s cheap. As the article says, “The overwhelming driver of the millennial shift to the region is affordability.” Vermonters are familiar with that word. These are places where you can get a three bedroom house for between $39,000 and $127,000, and I bet the property taxes are pretty reasonable as well.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Note, it’s not subsidized child care, or state-run healthcare or some other “unique” government benefit that is motivating young adults to choose these places — it’s the ability to buy a house or rent an apartment and meet a budget on their own and with very little money. What else is motivation these young citizens? “Rather than just home ownership, ‘it is about having roots and contributing to the revival of a place that needs businesses that create jobs and create value.’” Sounds like Vermont, no?

This is the real-world definition of “affordability,” and it works. I wrote about this in an op-ed over the summer: “Lesson: if you want to attract a lot of young workers to our state, make Vermont a cheap place to put down roots, and leave people alone to pursue their ventures and create wealth — and keep it — free from a lot of official interference.”

The article also refers to the fact that many people are now working virtually due to the high cost of living in and around major cities. Although many would prefer to be embedded in an urban environment, if that is cost prohibitive, these young adults are willing to help create their own vibrant neighborhoods outside the financial blast zones of places like San Francisco, Chicago, and Cleveland. So, it might be worth mentioning that Vermont is not that far from Boston, New York and Montreal.

But first, we have to genuinely make the state affordable. Lower housing costs. Lower the overall cost of living. Lower the tax burden. And, make it easier to create businesses, jobs and value. It’s not “if we build it, they will come” —  it’s “if we let them build it, they will come.” And, I’d bet a lot of those who are currently leaving might stay, too.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr/401kcalculator.org
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4 thoughts on “Roper: What ‘affordability’ means to millennials

  1. As a mother of 6 adult children, I completely agree with you.
    This may seem off the point, but I also feel we should be sending more convicted criminals to be housed in out of state prisons. Living in St Johnsbury, where North East Correctional Center results in an influx from out of the area of families and friends of inmates requiring housing and other assistance, and who often are no better behaved than the criminals they’ve followed into town, tells me send the criminals and their attendant families out of state. Perhaps knowing they won’t be staying in Vermont, will deter some of these miscreants from committing the crimes for which we are all stuck paying.

    • Same problem in Springfield. That once beautiful town got suckered into accepting small short term gain in exchange for the long term problems associated with a prison. Combine that with the state’s antibusiness attitude, stupid high tax rates, and you can see why there are so few new opportunities in a town that borders thriving New Hampshire.

  2. Just had this conversation with my frustrated son and his wife earlier this evening. The rest of the country is booming while many counties in Vermont are stagnating. Young people can’t afford to buy or build and builders are having difficulties finding ways to build affordable housing. Much of the blame can be placed right at the feet of Vermont’s over taxing, over regulating, over controlling state government. Just a simple thing like ridiculous over regulation of septic systems has driven the cost of construction through the roof. Act 250 has done a great job of over protecting Vermont and saving it for tourists to admire while the locals find it harder and harder to make ends meet. If you want young people to stay here then you need to start electing people who will get the hell out of the way and allow Vermont to thrive. Frequently we hear it said that conservatives want to control everything you do. Well, in my experience, it is those damned old hippies from the sixties and seventies who used to “fight the man” who now want to dictate every aspect of our lives and they are doing a really bad job of it.

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