Hous­ing op­tions needed to re­tain Ni­a­gara’s tal­ented youth

The Welland Tribune - - Opinion - DAMIAN GOULBOURNE

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.”

Damian Goulbourne was mayor of Wel­land from 2003 to 2010 and has been a Ni­a­gara Col­lege fac­ulty mem­ber in the busi­ness, hospi­tal­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tal divi­sion since 1999.

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