Will aging millennials leave the Eastside behind?

Photo by Mary-Austin Klein

A wave of gentrification and change has left many Eastside neighborhoods awash in craft beer, yoga mats and $1,500-a-month studio apartments.  But now there are signs that the millennials who descended on inner cities across the country as young twentysomethings will increasingly be looking to move on and out to (gasp!) the suburbs.  The shift comes as the economy improves and older members of the generation enter prime home buying years, says a story in the New York Times.

Part of the story is based on research conducted by Dowell Myers, an urban planning professor at USC.  Myers, in a research paper, argues that 2015  was “the peak year of Millennial presence in inner city districts” when the largest portion of that generation passed the age of 25. Myers says in his paper:

“After a decade of rapid increase, we now can expect rapid slowing and then deconcentration … The impacts of Millennials will not disappear but will slacken as they shift toward their new life-cycle stage of early middle age. The young people of the next decade are less likely to fill the gap left behind by the Millennials.”

That change could ease the competition for apartments and slow the pace of gentrification.  “For that reason some respite from the growing Millennials might be viewed favorably in some quarters,” said Myers.

Where will all those urban millennials go? The younger generation has shown a preference for city living and being able to walk or bike to shops, restaurants and other amenities. But, Myers and other demographic specialists expect that many of the inner city millennials will eventually follow previous generations into the suburbs as they age and start families.

Myers writes:

“These facts suggest that the Millennials would likely follow stepping stones into the suburbs, moving as couples, but not immediately seeking good schools or larger sized housing for families. Instead, they will likely seek out walkable or highly accessible neighborhoods that are also popular with other Millennials. As the Millennials move past age 35 or 40, the quality of schools will grow paramount in their location decisions, especially among the sizable segment that are college educated themselves.”

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  1. Interesting story, but loses some credibility with this phrase: “rapid slowing.” What does that mean.

  2. Anyone want to buy an overpriced house in a graffiti tagged, not-quite-there-yet, section of an almost there Northeast neighborhood within walking distance of the Gold Line and a cute little market/liquor store? I’ll throw in our camera surveillance equipment and our cat – only because I really don’t like our cat.

    • Hahaha! Walking distance to a liquor store and Gold Line – sounds like a dream! Can I offer you a minimum of $700/sf. for the property? Of course, it has to have a horizontal wood fence and subway tile in the bathroom 😉

  3. This is a cute fantasy, but very unlikely. The growth and appeal of urban centers isn’t a fad, it’s how societies operated for literally thousands of years prior to suburbanization that was created by the personal automobile. If anything suburbs are a fad, one that has been explored as a novelty beginning with baby boomers, one that was tolerated by Generation X and one that is now despised by the millennials who have exposed the flaws of such a terrible planning strategy. Suburbs had their time in spotlight and for a few decades they even had justifiable appeal. Now… they represent uninspired stucco boxes on the fringes of town, with no character, no culture and ungodly commute times.

    Sadly, suburbs still draw buyers out of the city, but certainly not by choice, but because the suburbs are the only place where one can still manage to buy.

    I’d be curious to hear Myer’s explanation as to why this “inner city fad” didn’t occur with Gen X, or why somehow it won’t appeal to Generation Z even though the conditions have only increased appeal for urban centers, which are now far more appealing now than they were for the generation that flocked to them. Also, if it’s only renting millennials occupying these inner city neighborhoods, then who are all my new neighbors? To whom are all these expensive houses trading hands to? The influx of buyers throughout the region can’t possibly be broke millennials..

    • I agree with you real Mike. I certainly won’t be adjusting my investment portfolio on “studies” like this one. This NYT story reads more like click bait than a valid study.

  4. Most people I know would rather be dead then live in the burbs. Plus, places like Glassel / Cypress park aren’t even gentrfied yet, and those are long overdue. Maybe in another 10 years?

    • I don’t want to live in the burbs either, but it seems like neighborhoods like Glassell and Cypress skipped right past gentrifying and became just expensive without being nice. Housing there isn’t much cheaper than HP, Echo Park, etc, and there’s not nearly as many amenities or restaurants. Who knows. This city is insane.

      • Average home price in Glassell Park is consistently more higher than average home price in Highland Park. I like that idea of it having skipped a step.

      • Glassell Park is more expensive because we don’t have all the amenities and jerks walking around trying to be cool 😉

        You pay extra to live in relative peace outside the hipster bubble.

        • Think of it this way. Glassel/Cypress hit their max ceiling already, HLP is just starting to get expensive. You ain’t seen nothing yet. In 5 years the entry fee for HLP will be a million bucks, minimum, and those aforementioned neighborhoods will remain the price they’re at now I bet.

  5. People are having fewer children these days and fewer women are having even 1 child these days. The surburbs were a place for larger family homes but they are less necessary and less in demand now that families are much smaller. Urbanization isn’t a fad, this article is a fad.

  6. This article is so silly. First of all, Northeast LA is still the suburbs. It may not look like Santa Clarita, but it’s not a dense urban core. There is no difference between South Pasadena and Highland Park, except demographically. Secondly, it wasn’t millennials who gentrified these areas, it was the previous generation, many of whom bought homes and have invested in the communities and schools.

    • Good point. I live in Pasadena, and the built environment around my neighborhood is far more urban than anything around York, Hyperion, Echo Park Ave, etc.

      It’s also somewhat cheaper and a bit more diverse… but I digress.

  7. As an “older” millennial with many older millennial friends (all of whom have a lot of equity in their home), I am witnessing this first hand. Nearly ALL my friends have plans to exit Highland Park and a few of the adjacent neighborhoods in the next 3-5 years, coenciding with…wait for it…their newborn babies going to school. They have ALL expressed in no certain terms that they have very little desire to raise their child in the neighborhood because of the inferior schools, higher crime, and lack of family amenities.

    The eastside is fun when your priority is to spend evenings out with friends or even take the train downtown or to the beach (minus the crying baby), but once you have to entertain a small child, it becomes almost depressing. As someone who didn’t grow up in Los Angeles, I will never understand why people tag trees and toss beer cans around Ernest Debbs park or discard used condoms in the street (I though we ALL want clean, safe neighborhoods), but I can’t imagine that this is an enriching experience for a young child.

    Just another perspective of course…

  8. Even if they do, I doubt it’ll be noticeable as far as supply/demand of urban housing is concerned. LA is decades behind the curve when it comes to building housing. And last I checked, we’re still making new humans every year. Some 30 somethings will move out, some 20 somethings will take their place. Circle of life.

  9. First off, NELA is a suburb of Downtown LA. Highland Park is LA’s 1st suburb actually. As downtown continues it’s unstoppable re-development these adjacent neighborhoods will only get more desirable. Parents will get involved, schools and walk scores will improve. As far as millennials trading up and moving to the suburbs of say South Pasadena (pictured), this is all news to me. Especially since almost every other article I read (including ones from NYT) say millennials are no way near being able to afford buying a house, much less one in South Pas for crying out loud.

    • Although Highland Park was once a suburb of downtown, I believe this would be a hard argument to make today with Los Angeles’ endless urban sprawl. For all intent and purposes, the suburbs would most likely consist of areas on the outskirts of LA County such as Santa Clarita.

    • ^spot on
      This is a “Vice” styled analysis article based on a very specific geographical region and demographic. It is a silly antidotal idea that takes no account for things like most millennial not being able to afford moving to their own house. The real truism that remained un-mentioned is the fact that most of the areas populerized by artist and people seeking cheap rent always end up being bought by those with more money thusly changing the demographic “wholesale” the two most notable areas where this has already happened is Venice Beach and The Arts District they are now a Disney representation of their former selves.

  10. I’ve been anticipating this shift for a couple of years already. It’s been my primary concern with the over-development of new units that I anticipate will all become affordable-housing by default when nobody that can afford the inflated prices wants to live in them any more, e.g., how long are those units located at the exit of the 2 Frway going to be able to attract wealthy renters? Moreover, there are spots that have actually become worse-looking and more neglected than they appeared 20 years ago. Primarily due to neglected lots in gritty blocks that nobody is apparently willing to pay top dollar for(?). I see opportunity and have been hawking four of these lots for the couple of years that they’ve been on the market without any buyers and when the transition finally begins to happen I will be prepared to $trike like a native whose never felt anything but love and appreciation for our eastside neighborhoods, i.e., I’ve always been able to ignore what the neighbors property looks like as long as mine is in good shape.

  11. I solved this problem by making the transition from hipster (circa 2003) to yuppie (circa now). I can see Echo Park from my roof top deck but excuse me for my bad mood: the new Audi has a nail in a tire. My problems are immense.

  12. Where are the slacker millennials going to move? All of So Cal is expensive. These people don’t like to work hard and spend all the money they make. They also aren’t having many kids because they’re too busy playing video games and shooting selfies on social media.

  13. No, I’m staying, and I’m sending my kids to local schools. Schools get better everywhere when parents send their kids to local schools and don’t move to better (typically whiter) neighborhoods.

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