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Study: Unaffordable Housing Has Pushed Young Adults Out Of Wealthy Suburbs

Home for Sale (file / credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Home for Sale (file/credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

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GREAT NECK PLAZA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The wealthy suburbs on Long Island and in Westchester County have been losing their young workforce at a dramatic rate, and advocates blamed a lack of affordable housing.

A study by the Community Housing Innovations, titled “Richest Communities on Long Island and in Westchester Experiencing Demographic Collapse of Young Adult Workforce,” found that villages and towns with the most expensive housing have seen a mass-exodus of those between the ages of 25 and 34 since 2000, according to a news release.

“The long-term health of some of the richest communities of our suburbs is threatened because of the lack and the loss of 25- to 34-year-olds in huge numbers,” said Alexander Roberts, executive director of Community Housing Innovations.

The study found the young adult population had dropped 58 percent in Kings Point, 57 percent in Westhampton, and 51 percent in Oyster Bay on Long Island; and 52 percent in Scardsale, 63 percent in Rye, and 40 percent in New Castle in Westchester County. The number of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 has also dropped in those areas, the study said.

The study found lower-income and racially diverse communities such as Wyandanch and Hempstead on Long Island; and Peekskill, Yonkers and Mount Vernon in Westchester County, had seen a far lower decrease or even an increase in the young adult population.

The study blamed a lack of affordable housing for what it called the “brain drain.” In the release, Long Island Builders Institute chief executive officer Mitch Pally said even though a law has required affordable units for families with an income of up to $138,000 in new construction, no one is tracking the enforcement of the law.

“It is absolutely necessary that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman review this matter and enforce the law to its fullest extent so that the affordable units which have been promised are actually approved and built,” Pally said in the release.

The study also said the villages and towns suffering the greatest loss of young people have historically restricted multi-family building construction in favor of single-family homes – in what is known as “snob zoning,” and which makes the areas unaffordable for much of the area workforce.

Advocates held a news conference on the study Tuesday in Great Neck Plaza, which recently approved several multi-family buildings including workforce housing units, the release said.

“We recognize that lack of affordable housing is contributing to the exodus of youth and that has negative consequences for the health of our community, its volunteer fire and emergency medical services, and its tax base. And that’s why we have moved ahead with sustainable growth in our downtown,” Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said in the release.

The release said there is no clear data about where the young adults are going, but noted that prior surveys showed people between the ages of 18 and 36 prefer urban environments and racial diversity.

“They are going to New York City. They’re going into places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in great numbers,” Roberts told 1010 WINS.

And Vision Long Island executive director Eric Alexander said it is not just young adults who need more affordable housing.

“Young people are voting with their feet by leaving, But you know, we do opinion polls – we did one with SUNY-Stony Brook a little over a year ago – and it showed that 54 percent of Baby Boomers want that type of housing,” he said.

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