Diverse housing options proposed to keep millennials in N.J.

Tim Evans, the research director at New Jersey Future, says towns and cities will have to offer more diverse housing to attract millennials.

Tim Evans, the research director at New Jersey Future, says towns and cities will have to offer more diverse housing to attract millennials. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

A land-use policy organization is recommending that New Jersey towns make some changes so millennials don’t continue to migrate to other states.

Those in the 22- to 34-year-old age group want to live in affordable housing where work, stores and recreational opportunities are all within walking distance, said Tim Evans with New Jersey Future.

“If you’re a place like Hoboken or Jersey City or Newark that has the kind of development in place that millennials are looking for, your solution is really just to try to add more housing to accommodate them,” he said. “It’s a little trickier if you’re an auto-oriented suburb, and you don’t already have a downtown. How do you create one?”

Robbinsville and Plainsboro succeeded by using vacant land to build their town centers from scratch, Evans said, while Voorhees and Somerdale rehabilitated malls to add housing.

The most important thing towns and cities can do to attract millennials is increase the diversity of their housing options, he said.

“So that you’re not just building McMansions,” Evans said. “You have to start looking to build smaller attached housing, apartment buildings, single-family homes on smaller lots — the kind of housing that a young adult just starting out in the workforce can afford.”

Housing in car-dependent suburban areas will become less expensive because of a drop in demand, he said.

“Whether that induces the millennial generation to move to those places, I don’t know. They’re already not moving there,” Evans said. “Whether they change their mind and decide the price point is more important than the millennial package they’re looking for remains to be seen.”

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