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High living costs dominate Westbury forum for millennials hosted by Curran

On Monday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran answered questions, many of which pertained to the high cost of living, from African-American millennials at a Westbury forum. Credit: Howard Simmons

Godson Michel, 27, of Amityville, has done his homework, and he is concerned.

The college graduate and digital marketing specialist wants to stay on Long Island, so he posed a question to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran at an event in Westbury on Monday night that perhaps all of the 30 or so millennials in attendance shared: How do I afford a home when the median price in Nassau is $557,000?

It was one of several thorny problems Curran fielded at an event billed as a "Millennial Chat" for blacks at the “Yes We Can” Community Center. The forum, titled “Hear Our Voices," was part of the county’s Black History Month celebration.

“What steps is the county taking to help us move into homeownership?” Michel asked. Curran answered that the Nassau County Housing Office could provide help with mortgages and other matters critical for a first-time homebuyer.

“We have a very vibrant housing office,” she said.

Monetary matters were foremost among the questions and issues raised at the event, the second in a series of chats Curran plans to have with millennials, a population born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, according to demographers.

Curran underscored the need to discuss and solve the problems facing millennials because Nassau is seeing young people who can’t afford Long Island’s high prices looking elsewhere to live.

“One thing I find in Nassau County is that young people are leaving,” she said, adding that Bushwick, in Brooklyn is as likely to claim former Nassau residents as are Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee. “If we do not help them, we will not be able to thrive in the future."

The event was sponsored by the county’s Office of Minority Affairs and moderated by the office's program coordinator Dexter Hedgepeth. It drew up to 50 attendees from Nassau and Suffolk.

Dean Moore, 37, of Roosevelt, was concerned about ownership of businesses, homes and intellectual property, all of which he said are lacking in his community.

He was pleased with the chance to have a dialogue.

“I feel like she understood,” Moore said of Curran. “I’m pretty sure she’ll be open to a conversation on how we can bridge the gap.”

Raina Townsend, who bought a home with her mother in Roosevelt, said she is plagued by the dual demons of high student loan debt and the exorbitant cost of housing while speculators buy up properties in her community.

Townsend, 33, proposed helping millennials buy “zombie” homes to get rid of unsightly dwellings and allow natives to stay on Long Island.

“We’re leaving,” she said of her cohorts. “If my mother would leave, I would leave. Millennials are not able to move out of their parents’ homes.”

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