Over the past few months, I've written a lot about Montgomery County's need to attract and retain Millennials, who could contribute a lot to the county but often cannot afford local housing prices. That's what Arlington's figured out, and that's why they recently held an event with the unfortunate name "Housing 4 Hipsters" to help young professionals looking for housing. They also know something we don't, as Lydia DePillis from the Washington City Paper points out in her column this week (emphasis mine):
About 100 people had shown up to talk to lenders and housing officials about their prospects for deals on housing. That’s 100 people who might end up buying homes—and paying taxes—in Arlington instead of Montgomery County, Fairfax County, or the District—people who’ll spend money eating, shopping, and raising their children in Arlington.
The old trope goes that young people move into "the city" after college, dick around for a few years, then move out to "the suburbs" when they're ready to have kids. Arlington's secret is that it has the convenience and activity of an urban area with the benefits of the suburbs, like great schools, low crime rates, and ample parking.
As DePillis points out in her column, that combination is enough to hook people for life. The young women she interviews at "Housing 4 Hipsters" allude to that suburb-city hybrid as a selling point: one complains she wouldn't move back to the District until "their standards are brought up," while another wants to keep a car wherever she lives.
Of course, Arlington doesn't have a monopoly on this lifestyle: Bethesda and Silver Spring offer it also, and soon places like Rockville, White Flint and Wheaton will as well. Montgomery County's done a great job of building these communities up and making them desirable places for people to live at all ages. But it wouldn't hurt for them to reach out to young folks like me, whether by encouraging the production of more housing, or with events like "Housing 4 Hipsters" that increase awareness of programs that can make it easier to rent or buy a home. Once you get us in the door, you'll have us for a long time.
Like I've said before, the largest generation in American history is entering the workforce, and a lot of them will seek places that have a mix of suburban and urban features. This is a great opportunity for Montgomery County. We've already got what it takes. All we have to do is go for it.
A side note: I couldn't have written this post if it wasn't for awesome alt-weekly newspapers like the endangered City Paper, which do local reporting justice in an era when it's often unprofitable to do so. Thanks, CP! I hope y'all stay afloat, for all of our sakes.