Citing the results of a new study that finds that the most exclusive suburbs on Long Island and in Westchester County are losing their young workforce at an accelerating rate, housing advocates and business leaders called on the state attorney general to take action to enforce existing law. The study by Community Housing Innovations, Richest Communities on Long Island and in Westchester Experiencing Demographic Collapse of Young Adult Workforce, found that since 2000, villages and towns with the most expensive housing have seen a large exodus of young adults 25-34.
On Long Island since 2000, the Village of Kings Point has lost 58 percent of its 25-34 year olds, Westhampton 57 percent and Oyster Bay 51 percent. The Village of Scarsdale in Westchester County has seen its population of 25 to 34 year olds decline by 52 percent. Rye has lost 63 percent and New Castle 40 percent. These high-income communities have also experienced losses of 35-44 year olds. While generally not as high as the younger cohort, the declines are still substantial at up to 45 percent since the 2000 census.
The study by the 22-year old nonprofit housing agency was developed using data from the American Community Survey (ACS) on PolicyMap.com, an online data and mapping tool that enables government, commercial, non-profit and academic institutions to access data about communities and markets across the United States. The period studied includes changes from the 2000 census to the period 2007-2011 covered by the ACS.
According to CHI Executive Director Alexander Roberts, “We have always known about what is called the ‘Brain Drain’ in Westchester and Long Island with young adults leaving. County losses of 25-34 year olds have been consistent at between 12 and 13 percent since 2000, compared to gains in the U.S. of about 3 percent. But when I looked further at the town and village level, I was amazed to find that the declines were so strikingly different in the municipalities with the highest housing prices and least affordable housing.“
Conversely, the declines on Long Island in the 25-34 age cohort are much less in lower income, racially diverse municipalities such as Wyandanch, which showed an increase of 12 percent and Hempstead Village, which registered a decline of 1 percent. In Westchester, this population increased 8 percent in Peekskill, while declining 4 percent in Yonkers and 11 percent in Mount Vernon.
Mitch Pally, Chief Executive Officer of the Long Island Builders Institute, noted that the New York State Legislature passed the Long Island Workforce Housing Act in 2008 which requires that 10 percent of all new developments over five units be affordable to families with household incomes of up to 130 percent of the area median income, or $138,000. The effect of the legislation is unclear because no one is tracking the affordable units being built under the statute or enforcing its requirements on municipalities.
“It is absolutely necessary,” said Pally, “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.”
The villages and towns suffering the largest losses of their young workforce have historically restricted multifamily development in favor of single-family homes. The practice, known as exclusionary or snob zoning, makes living in these communities unaffordable for much of the Long Island and Westchester County workforce.
The news conference was held in the Village of Great Neck Plaza, which recently added several multifamily apartment buildings that include workforce housing units within rental development projects in the downtown. The losses in Great Neck Plaza — at 14 percent — are considerably lower than neighboring Great Neck Estates, which lost 44 percent.
Mayor Jean Celender 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.”
Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, applauded Mayor Celender and Great Neck for embracing Smart Growth in the village.
“Over 25 communities across Long Island are expanding housing opportunities in their downtown areas. This growing trend sets an example for other communities to step forward and meet the needs of their fellow neighbors,” Alexander said.
While there is no definitive data on where the overwhelmingly White, highly-educated 25-34 year olds are going, the study has some clues. Previous surveys have established that the Millenials born between 1978 and 1996 display a preference for urban environments over suburbs and are comfortable with racial diversity.
“We searched for census tracts in the Metropolitan Area in which the percentage of White people, and percentage of 25-34 year olds each increased by at least 10 Percent,” said Roberts. “What came up were census tracts in Upper Manhattan and Brooklyn which have undergone major demographic change. A census tract near Harlem Hospital, for example, saw its population of 25-34 year olds increase 35 percent, and the number of Whites soared over 2,000 percent.”
Roberts said that it is important that efforts to spur affordable housing eliminate local preferences that would have the effect of maintaining residential segregation and violate Fair Housing laws. In Westchester County, all of the municipalities experiencing severe losses of young adults are named in the HUD Settlement Order requiring that they reform their zoning to increase affordable housing and equal opportunity.
Vision Long Island’s Eric Alexander praised the growing number of Long Island towns that have overcome barriers to downtown development of multifamily housing such as Great Neck, Ronkonkoma and Patchogue.
“By expanding affordable housing opportunities in Long Island ‘s downtowns, villages like Great Neck Plaza show that development is not incompatible with the single family culture of Long Island but only enhances it,” he said.
Christopher Jones, Regional Plan Association Vice President for Research, commented, “The report is further evidence that restrictions on affordable multi-family housing threaten the economy on Long Island and other parts of the New York region. We know that the lack of rental housing on Long Island makes it difficult to attract and retain the diverse workforce that is needed to compete in today’s economy. These new data dramatize the impact in communities where little multi-family housing has been built. Mayor Celender and a growing number of mayors have shown that well-designed multi-family housing is a key ingredient for successful downtowns. We need to expand these examples to more locations with homes that serve a broad range of incomes, ages and family types.”
View related media coverage:
The New York Times: Suburbs Try to Prevent as Exodus as Young Adults Move to Cities and Stay Read the article.
Westchester Business Journal News@Noon: Young Professionals Seek Their Place in Westchester Read the article.
Journal News: Editorial: Better zoning guidance in Westchester can win battles Read editorial.
Westchester Business Journal: County’s elite towns battle ‘brain drain’ Read article.
Journal News: Exodus of young adults worst in Westchester County’s wealthiest towns Read article.
Newsday: LI’s young adult workforce in ‘demographic collapse’ Read article and watch the video.
News12 Long Island: watch the video.
WCBS 880News: hear the story.
OysterBayEnterprisePilot: read article.
Southampton Press: read article.
Report maps can also be downloaded: