March 14, 2014

Linking diversity, regional economics

People are talking about a report last week from a group known as Community Housing Innovations. “Did you see that report that said that young people are leaving our area?” asked a friend as he paused from his workout on the elliptical machine at the gym.

The new study finds that the most exclusive suburbs in Westchester County and on Long Island are losing their young workforce at an accelerating rate. The study, “Richest Communities on Long Island and in Westchester Experiencing Demographic Collapse of Young Adult Workforce,” found that since 2000, villages and towns with the most expensive housing have seen a large exodus of young adults 25-34. Pound Ridge has lost 58 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds, while Bedford has seen a 21 percent decline in its 25-34 population, the report states. Pound Ridge has lost 16 percent of its 35-44 population and Bedford 18 percent. These numbers are comparable to those of other towns, including Rye, Scarsdale and Bronxville.

The report further identifies the communities as those named in the housing discrimination settlement with HUD. “If we make lack of African-Americans in a community — say less than 5 percent — a proxy for lack of diversity, the correlation between a loss of youth 25-34 and lack of diversity becomes all the more striking,” it states. “Maps of census tracts that have lost more than 20 percent of their 25-34-year-olds since 2000 are strikingly similar to the maps showing census tracts that are less than 5 percent African-American.”

As Westchester moves forward with implementation of the housing settlement, our towns are considering updates and revisions to zoning laws, enforcement of building codes, environmental protection measures and its policies on immigrants and undocumented residents. The numbers presented by Community Housing Innovations are now part of the mix. They also require further analysis:

• Are our young people leaving because of a “demographic collapse” or a historical pattern? Will they return later?

• What is the economic impact of diversity or lack thereof?

• How does the local economy serve and provide adequate opportunities for the “young workforce”?

One of the key aspects of the housing settlement with the federal government is the marketing of fair and affordable housing to people of all races, including those beyond Westchester’s borders. In its best case, it can meet the goal of strengthening our communities today while providing opportunities for young people as they launch their working lives. However, by promoting questionable causality in what comes across as a hard and overly sensational sell, the new study does little to advance the argument.

A more productive activity might be attending the Westchester County’s 2014 Fair and Affordable Housing Expo on Saturday, March 15, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Admission is free.

A 1 p.m. workshop on Fair and Affordable Housing will focus on the Westchester County Housing Settlement and on  HYPERLINK "" Homeseeker Online, a website on which visitors are provided with information about affordable homeownership and rental apartment opportunities in Westchester. Those attending can also learn about fair lending, affirmative marketing and the FAH application and selection process.

For more information on the expo, contact Westchester Residential Opportunities at 428-4507, ext. 314, or, or the Housing Action Council at 332-4144 or

Helping hands

On the other side of the demographic scale, we received a call this week from a Bedford resident, 85 years young. She was seeking a one-year subscription (“I might not be around much longer than that,” she quipped), but she was also interested in communicating her thoughts. “I wish you would write about this,” she said. “Old people can’t walk around Bedford. There’s not a town bus for older people — I’m not talking about handicapped. I worry about people. In Ridgefield they have a senior center that’s like a country club. I went to one here and no one spoke to me. People coming in now, they have a lot of money. They’re all traveling, they don’t need a neighbor.”

Surely she is not alone. Our area needs more reaching out and more time for each other.

We need neighbors to help neighbors and provide a welcome to all who seek to share this beautiful landscape.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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