Millennials care most about affordability, convenience, food
Millennials are not likely to dole out cash to cover commuting expenses but will do their best to live affordably in an area with a large selection of nearby amenities, according to a study from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
A team of Bloustein graduate students performed a study in the fall semester for their real-world client, the Somerset County Business Partnership, said Eliot Benman, one of the students involved.
The students advised Somerset County on how to create a community that will attract and retain individuals between the ages of 15 and 33, according to MyCentralJersey.com.
A previous report by the Bloustein School dean James Hughes describes challenges that counties on the edge of metropolitan areas may face in the future, said Benman, who is pursuing a master’s degree in city and regional planning.
The report prompted Somerset County planners to investigate and enlist the help of the students, particularly in understanding how to attract young, talented workers to the community, Benman said.
The baby boomer generation, which is now reaching retirement, desires housing that is similar to what millennials are looking for, Benman said. While millennials are looking for affordable housing, baby boomers are looking to downsize.
“Millennials are looking for smaller and affordable places … especially because they are burdened with school debt,” Benman said. “(Baby boomers) might be living in a large, single-family home now, but upon retiring they are going to want to downsize and perhaps move into a rental.”
Daniel Stone, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said cities might be able to assist students who struggle to find jobs in their discipline after graduation.
“Look at Seattle, where they raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour," Stone said. "That would make every person have a livable wage (if) they are in a field where not a lot of jobs are offered."
Anne Kapengut, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she would be inclined to seek cheap rent and apartments where residents can live with other people to further reduce costs.
She also suggested that cities create financial incentives for young, recent graduates entering the labor force to choose their community to live in.
“Maybe tax credits, where if you’re this age and living here, we’ll give you a subsidy for this housing,” Kapengut said. “That’s a really good way to get people to live there.”
The study utilized American Planning Association literature and the perspective of millennials to examine both the residential real estate market of the county as well as the retail real estate market, Benman said.
Millennials and baby boomers are both looking for amenity-rich places with cultural institutions and activities, entertainment and places that are close to transit, Benman said. Vibrant town centers and walk-able or bike-able locations have strong appeal for both groups.
Kapengut said a safe environment with a mix of families and individuals may attract millennials such as herself to a particular area.
“There would have to be an area where (there are) restaurants and bars and shops … places where you can meet other people your age, as well as public transportation because most people don’t really want to have to have a car and drive everywhere,” Kapengut said.
Stone said that transit would be a major factor in his selection of a place to live.
“If there’s a train that’s right next to my apartment, or a subway in the city, that would be a lot easier to get around with than just by car,” Stone said. “If we focus more on public transit, it will definitely better our community, rather than just relying on cars.”
The study assessed the strengths of the county, confirmed the benefits of the county’s plans for transit-oriented development and made recommendations for improvement, Benman said.
Diversifying the housing stock was one such suggestion, Benman said. The current supply of housing is dominated by single-family homes that are not affordable to even high-earning recent graduates.
The study recommended creating health and wellness centers featuring hospitals, shopping space for wellness stores and more parks and recreation areas, Benman said.
Companies are looking to move into better-connected areas rather than large office campuses in suburban locations, Benman said.
Increasingly, companies are following talented labor rather than workers following jobs, Benman said. Because of this trend, counties have even more incentive to attract young workers, to ensure that companies and jobs remain in the area.
“The reason that they’re trying to attract millennials is very much about securing the economic future of the county,” Benman said.
For millennials who are preparing to relocate, Benman offered considerations to keep in mind.
“There are vibrant town centers appearing in smaller communities and up-and-coming neighborhoods in larger cities that don’t always have the best reputations,” Benman said. “Many of these places are ‘best kept secrets.’”