Affordable Housing, Announcements, Community Development

What Do Young Adults Want In Their Communities?

 

Faina Dookh, YES Steering Committee Member and Zoom Policy Fellow

What will draw young professionals to live and settle in the towns of Connecticut? I recently participated in a panel with other young professionals (on behalf of YES – Young Energetic Solutions) to describe what is important to us as we make decisions about where to live. Our audience was the Corridor Advisory Committee, consisting of chief elected officials and other municipal leaders, who listened intently to understand what we prioritize when we make housing choices, and how important current transit development work, such as CTfastrak, is for us.

Although we are in different stages in our lives, from a Hartford native deciding where to buy a home in order to raise children, to a social entrepreneur looking for a rental apartment in downtown Hartford that cuts out a 45-minute commute, we shared our desire for living near reliable transit, in communities that are active and walkable, and in housing that is affordable. It is clear that the single family home model located far from work does not make sense for many like us who, leaving school with a massive amount of student debt, are looking for housing we can share with roommates. We value a far-reaching transit system that can allow us to save on gas and pass on buying a second car for the household, as well as get us to attractions and friends in all parts of the state. At the same time, we want vibrant, diverse communities that give us a chance to participate in our community, and where coffee shops, restaurants, and dog parks are within walking distance.

In the back of my mind, and many young professionals beginning their careers after school, is the exciting lure of New York City and Boston where you can get anywhere you want at any time of the day; where you can go to a coffee shop to work or have a conversation on a Saturday afternoon, or walk to a corner store in the middle of the night to buy sugar for a late night dessert recipe. We are active and busy and live in a world where we want access to everything at any time, and where settling in a far-flung suburb with nothing else going on may never be desirable.

After our panel several people tried to “sell” their town to us by describing new developments underway, and I appreciated their genuine concern for our perspectives. I believe more committees should be open to hearing what young people want out of their towns. Unfortunately, for some of us, the transit projects are not coming soon enough as we make choices for right now, and sacrifice an active, walkable community for a house that is close to work, or rent an apartment somewhere far from transit because our desired location is out of our price range. How long will young professionals wait for affordable housing options in towns we fell in love with, or for efficient, convenient transit that connects all the pieces of our lives? How long will the places we currently live in, that do not feel like quite the right fit, keep us in Connecticut? We don’t know for sure.

Young Energetic Solutions is a statewide organization whose mission is to empower young people to create a vibrant Connecticut.

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