Building Houses for Young Professionals

Much like Provo but on a larger scale, Boston exports recent college grads with highly developed skills. It’s a problem in both cities — with cost of living being a major factor in Boston — but unlike Provo, the New England metropolis is actively and laudably working to retain its young professionals.

According to The Boston Globe, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick wants to add 10,000 housing units a year in order to stop the outflow of young professionals:

The initiative includes a program called Compact Neighborhoods that will encourage and create housing near workplaces, public transportation, and city and village centers, Patrick said.

The plan is meant to complement other state initiatives that promote so-called smart-growth — the creation of housing near train stations and urban centers, state officials said. It would more than double the amount of housing with five or more units — including apartments and condominiums — expected to be built by the end of this year, the state said

“Access to housing for our middle- and moderate-income families is an important component in the Commonwealth’s continued growth to retain and build our young and innovative workforce,” Patrick said in a statement.

In response, Boston is offering financial incentives to communities that build the kind of housing that young professionals want and can afford. The Atlantic Cities’ Kaid Benfield offered additional information on those incentives, writing that communities must meet certain density and smart growth goals.

This church is being converted to housing, which given it’s cost and location (and style) may ultimately appeal to young professionals. Provo needs to add a lot more housing for that demographic.

So why isn’t Provo doing more to retain its young population post graduation? BYU certainly presumes to have a global brand, but so do most of the major schools in Boston area. BYU also draws many people from other parts of the country, but again, so do many schools in Boston.

The point is that economic conditions — cost of living, job opportunities, housing stock — do make a big difference in how many people are willing to stay in a metro area. And as I wrote last week, getting young professionals to stay is essential for long term economic success. Provo is working to add housing, but retention of new college grads doesn’t seem to be anyone’s explicit goal. In Boston it is, and they’ll likely have more success for it.

It’s also worth mentioning that neither the Globe article nor the sources I cited last week mentioned anything about working with universities or institutions to somehow convince grads not to move away. BYU is notoriously hard to work with for anything, but thankfully that’s not much of a factor here.

Instead, these sources suggest that incentivizing young people to call a city home is something that happens economically on a municipal and regional level. In other words, if BYU students don’t stay in Provo it’s because Provo itself isn’t offering them good reasons to do so.

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6 Comments

Filed under BYU, Development, economics

6 responses to “Building Houses for Young Professionals

  1. Maybe Boston does a better job of keeping young professionals because when a young person says they live in Boston people don’t immediately ask them what they’re studying, when they’re graduating, or how they like BYU. It seems like if you’re young in Provo, people assume you’re a BYU undergrad. I guess developers make the same assumption.

    • I’m a young professional living in St. George and I get asked the same questions. That’s just what I get for looking about that age and working in a town with a college. Such is life.

      I doubt developers are making that same assumption.

      It’s probably more likely that no one has brought it to their attention that there’s a market for young professionals around here. Off the top of my head I can only think of one place I’d want to live in Provo. If the city demonstrates a market and willingness to work with developers, I think it’s likely Provo will be able to foster growth in that area.

  2. Pingback: Planning for Future Families | (pro(vo)cation)

  3. Sarah

    Why would students want to stay after graduation? The culture of Provo is a best just toleration of students, and at worst, disdain and disgust. Think of how many of out laws and zonings are anti-student. Or anti-student integration. Locals don’t make an effort to welcome students to make themselves at home.

  4. Pingback: Provo Homes are Pricey | (pro(vo)cation)

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