Is your community a small city looking for a way to attract and retain young professionals? The cornerstone of your efforts might involve showcasing the cost of living in your community.
Next Generation Consulting recently released its Next Cities List featuring top-notch communities with the amenities that young professionals value. At the top of the large cities list are cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Austin. These large metro areas are commonly credited with having assets that dazzle young people, such as pleasant weather, plenty of outdoor activities, and exhilarating nightlife venues.
However, among many of the largest metro areas in the U.S., only Austin has experienced a large net gain of 25- to 39-year-old residents since 2000.
What’s Austin’s secret? Affordable living.
Austin has an abundance of parks, restaurants, and cultural events, but these big-city amenities alone are not enough to attract and retain today’s young professionals. An exciting nightlife and miles of hiking/biking trails is definitely appealing to young professionals, and can get their attention. But in order for them to seriously consider relocating to a city, the bottom line is affordability. In our surveys of young professionals, cost of lifestyle (particularly the cost of housing) is consistently selected as the most important factor when they are deciding where to live.
Cost of lifestyle is especially important to young professionals now, as America climbs its way out of a historic nationwide recession. Today’s cost-conscious and highly mobile young professionals are relocating to communities where they can stretch their dollars.
Austin, with its modest cost of living, is one of the prime landing places. Between 2000 and 2008, Austin’s population of 25- to 39-year-old residents grew by an astonishing 23%. Comparatively, Denver’s population of young residents grew by a meager 3%, Seattle’s population of young residents declined by 3%, and San Francisco’s population of young residents declined by 15%.
How affordable is Austin’s housing market compared to other large metropolitan areas? According to the 2008 American Community Survey, Austin’s housing costs are far below its peers:
The bright lights of the big city are not enough to attract and retain young professionals. The key ingredient for all cities, small and large, is affordable living.