Cost of living prompts millennials to leave NJ

After living in New Jersey his whole life and working in biotech, Stan Piotrowsky packed his bags for Portland, Oregon. This millennial, like many, says he just couldn’t afford the price of housing.

“Last year, I guess it was January, I would say, I really started seriously considering moving,” said Piotrowsky. “Our home now in Oregon is so much cheaper than it is in New Jersey. I live in a 1,000-square-foot apartment with two floors, a garage and a balcony. I could never afford anything like that in a walkable community in New Jersey, especially somewhere like Jersey City.”

That walkable community Piotrowsky is talking about — a place where you live, work and play within walking distance — has been buzzed about in the news as a millennial preference.

New Jersey Future’s Tim Evans wanted to see for himself whether data supported the headlines. The answer he found was “yes”.

“The hype is true that millennials really do like to live in cities and towns and places where they can live work and shop in the same place,” said Evans.

But the report he published also says, “New Jersey is endowed with an over-supply of single family homes on large lots, particularly in places that are dependent on driving.”

So, what do you do if you’re a place that has a lot of middle-aged to older people living in a car-dependent environment and you want to try to attract millennials?” Evans said.

His solution is to build more to get prices down, because he says demand is outstripping supply.

“It would be good if we started building the kind of housing units that millennials want. They don’t want the nine room house on the acre lot, they want to live in town, so we should be producing smaller units, more apartments, more duplexes, more townhouses,” he commented.

New Jersey does have Jersey City or Hoboken, for example. But through his research, Evans discovered that while the number of young adults is going up nationally, the population age of 22-to 34-year-old in New Jersey declined by 2.3 percent from 2000 to 2013.

“That tells me that a lot of millennials are moving out of the state,” said Evans.

So what’s the problem? His conclusion was the same as Piotrowsky — it’s not affordable.

“Not all of them can find enough places that they can afford in the kind of places where they want to live,” said Evans.

According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, 80 percent of the millennials who leave the state are making less than $50,000 a year.

To put that into perspective, NJPP says a single adult in the state can expect to pay close to $25,000 for the basics, like housing, transportation and food. You’re left with roughly half to use for things like entertainment, savings, car payments and student loans.

When asked if he could afforded a trendy, walkable community in New Jersey, would he have stayed, Piotrowski replied, “After going to school for four years and trying to make a name for myself in my profession, I can’t afford to live in New Jersey,” said Piotrowski.

But if he could, his answer was “yes.”

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