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.
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.