Housing options needed to retain Niagara’s talented youth
When you have high school or college/ university age children or grandchildren spring is a time of year that is full of mixed emotions.
College/university students have either just completed their academic terms and are ready to begin working at their summer jobs or are looking at the upcoming graduation ceremony as the start to their professional career.
Many parents hope their sons or daughters will find a job locally, so they can stay close to home and the family structure remains intact. I admit it; I am one of those parents.
In the past, I have written about the challenges college/university graduates face finding a job in Niagara and that the key to youth retention is having diversity in job opportunities in a community.
If you speak to graduates they will also share with you another factor that weighs heavily on their minds upon graduation. Where will they live?
A May 2015 study out of the University of York, in the U.K. by Julie Rugg and Deborah Quilgars revealed “housing experiences of young people are not homogenous.”
Rugg & Quilgars found that “wider changes in the economy and labour markets have made it harder for young people to enter, remain and progress in employment, with higher underlying proportions of young people unemployed (Tunstall et al., 2012). Support from family, both financially and emotionally, has become increasingly important in accessing the more constrained and increasingly costly options” of housing.
Some of us look to Toronto and say they have it figured out as we have witnessed their condo boom and think maybe we in Niagara need to follow that lead. Not so fast … Toronto doesn’t have all the answers.
In June of 2017 Toronto Star real estate reporter Tess Kalinowski wrote an article headlined “Toronto needs more housing options to keep top talent.” Kalinowski discovered that “housing options are scarce” in Toronto. She learned “unless that situation changes, the region could be compromising its ability to attract talented professionals.”
A research study by the Toronto Board of Trade discovered that “those aged 18 to 39 want to own a detached house and they want it in the region’s priciest market — Toronto, where detached re-sale homes cost $1.6 million on average in April.”
So, what is the solution to keeping youth, who can find reliable employment in Niagara, living in our region?
One thing is for sure, the situation in Niagara is not going to improve on its own. A powerful statement in the University of York study discloses that “inter-generational inequalities between ‘housing poor’ young people and ‘housing rich’ elders will increase (Stephens, 2011; McKee, 2012), as will inequalities between the children of owners with equity and the children of renters with none.”
“Suggested action steps” can be found in our own 2017 Living in Niagara report, which contained a section on housing. The report outlined four actions where the last two are valid propositions (pg. 41) for consideration regarding solutions to the housing challenge young people and their loved ones are facing in our community. First, “identify creative opportunities to offer a spectrum of housing options including incentives for developers to create these options.” Second, “focus on reducing ongoing long wait lists for affordable housing in Niagara.”
Each of us wants our children and grandchildren to find academic and career success but as the barriers that are before them were not created by their hands, it is our responsibility as citizens to engage our leaders to act upon the propositions outlined in the 2017 Living in Niagara report.
I will leave it to former astronaut John Glenn to tie it all together: “By its very definition, civic responsibility means taking a healthy role in the life of one’s community. That means that classroom lessons should be complemented by work outside the classroom. Service-learning does just that, tying community service to academic learning.”