New study says New Haven area one of the most attractive in the country for millenials

Connecticut economists frequently talk about how residents are leaving the state in droves, but apparently not every demographic feels that way, if a new National Association of Realtors study is to be believed.

An analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey, which tracks households in the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, found that the New Haven-Milford metropolitan area and Madison, Wis., topped a list of areas to which millennials moved. Millennials are defined as those individuals born between between 1980 and 1998.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the national real state trade group said millennials look for “robust employment opportunities” and affordability of housing.

Millennials represented 22 percent of the entire population in the New Haven-Milford area in 2017, according to the study. They represented 75 percent of the recent movers into to the area from any age group.

Median income for all millennials living in the New Haven-Milford metropolitan area in 2017 was $54,800. The median income for millennials who recently moved into the area was $53,600 two years ago.

The NAR study doesn’t come as any surprise to David Salinas, one of Connecticut’s leading technology entrepreneurs. Salinas founded Digital Surgeons, a New Haven-based technology company, and is the driving force behind The District, a sprawling co-working space for start-up companies that opened about a year ago built on the site of the former CT Transit bus garage at the intersection of James and State streets.

Salinas said the general public has a vision of millennials “as people who ride around on bicycles, who don’t want to own a car or own a house.”

“But growing number of that group is their 30s wants to have a family, buy a house and live in Milford,” said Salinas, who lives in that city.

Both Salinas and Josh Geballe, the state commissioner of Administrative Services, participated in a panel discussion at a Connecticut Business & Industry Association on innovation. They said what makes Connecticut attractive enough to millennials that they want to move here is the quality of public schools and the cost of living here compared to Boston, New York and other bigger cities.

Before Geballe took a job in administration of Gov. Ned Lamont, he was vice president and general manager of digital service for Thermo Fisher Scientific, which makes analytical instruments, equipment, software and and performs for research, analysis and diagnostics. The Walthan, Mass., company acquired Geballe’s biotechnology start-up, Branford-based Core Infomatics, in May 2017.

Geballe said Branford is a perfect example of the appeal that the New Haven area has to millennials.

“It’s a town of less than 30,000 people and it’s home to 20 bio-tech companies,”he said. “We have great jobs and a great quality of life to offer.”

Salinas said the state’s technology sector and Connecticut officials need to do a better job of marketing the state.

“We need to have a little moxie, a little pride, a little swagger that says we’re all in with this,” he said.

But others are skeptical of the real estate trade association’s findings.

Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research for New Haven-based DataCore Partners, said millennialls are burdened with heavy levels of college debt that must be paid back.

“Twelve percent of all student loans are 90 days past due right now and that isn’t taking into account consumer debt like car loans and credit cards,” Klepper-Smith said. “Millennials have a lot of that debt and this impacts their ability to buy a home. Going forward, I think were going to see increased demand for flexible housing arrangement and transit oriented development.”

Lauren Sardi is an associate professor in sociology at Quinnipiac University and is part of the millennial generation. Sardi said millennials are recognizing that “that it’s really not feasible to afford what our parents are able or were able to afford.”

“Our parents had easier access to succeed than we do now,” she said. “Some millennials are worried about job security and a lot of that has to do with economic stability.”

That’s what makes her skeptical of the findings of the real estate trade group’s report, Sardi said. Technology jobs that seek individuals with very specific skills sets may attract certain types of millennials to the New Haven area, she said.

“That leads to more economic inequality for those that don’t have those skills,” Sardi said.

In some ways, she said, millennials are no different than any other age group when it comes to whether they find Connecticut and the New Haven area an attractive place.

“The state needs to get its budget under control,” Sardi said. “And they have to offer affordable places to live, not just when viewed in comparison to other cities.”

The NAR study found that share of homes that all millennials could afford to buy the New Haven area in 2017 was 29 percent. Millennials who had just moved to the area didn’t fare any better: They could only afford 28 percent of the available housing.

NAR defines affordable housing as that which taks less than 30 percent of an individual’s income.

Sardi said millennials are also looking for areas where employers “are family friendly and offer paid maternity leave and paid family leave.”

“In comparison to other areas, Madison offers one of the highest wages for millennials,” Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “This income level combined with the robust employment opportunities and the affordability, make Madison among one of the most appealing locations for millennials who are looking to stay longer and raise families.”

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com

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