Young, educated workers are making cities more expensive

Rendering of SoLA Village in L.A. (credit: The Reef)
Rendering of SoLA Village in L.A. (credit: The Reef)

Well-educated young professionals are flocking to cities at a rate not seen since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking their migration in the 1970s, the Wall Street Journal reported. As a result of this trend, urban centers across America have seen profound increases in rents and housing values.

The average rent in U.S. cities is now nearly $1,730 — nearly 40 percent more expensive than the average suburban rent of $1,250. As for sale prices, urban homes are about 2 percent pricier than the average suburban homes, according to Zillow. Not so long ago, in 2010, the opposite was true: suburban homes were worth 4 percent more.

The urban migration that kicked off at the start of the new millennium has revitalized worn-down urban cores (e.g. Downtown Los Angeles), bringing forth new restaurants, stores, parks and even updates to public transit. However, as property values rise, it becomes harder for lower-wage employees to stay in cities, and they are often displaced to the suburbs.

“The housing affordability issues are no longer limited to the high-cost coastal cities” like New York and San Francisco, Stockton Williams, executive director of the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, told the Journal.

At the edge of the Rust Belt, even Cleveland is seeing a renaissance in its housing market. The share of young, educated residents in downtown neighborhoods increased from 8 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2014, according to Census data compiled by Jed Kolko, a senior fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley.

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In the particularly happening neighborhood of Ohio City, the median income has more than quadrupled since 2006, going from $23,000 to $93,000. Median home values grew even more — 800 percent since 2000 to $270,000, according to Ohio City Inc.

The growing costs, however, are also pushing out middle class workers, like teachers and police officers.

“It was kind of an ironic situation that a neighborhood we had really put a lot of energy into revitalizing we ended up not being able to afford,”said Ohio City exercise studio owner Anne Hartnett.

The city that has seen the biggest influx of the young and educated is Pittsburgh, which saw the demographic increase by 10 percent from 2000 to 2014. Los Angeles has seen a 2.5 percent change, according to UCLA data. [WSJ]Cathaleen Chen