Burdened by student loans, housing costs and high taxes, a majority of young adults on Long Island anticipate moving to somewhere more affordable within five years, according to research being released Friday by nextLI.
The expansive survey on "the next generation of Long Islanders" — a project generated by Newsday and funded by a charitable grant from the Rauch Foundation — found that 67 percent said they plan to leave in the next five years, while only four in 10 expect to live on Long Island when they retire.
But it's not as if those between the ages of 18 and 34 want to leave.
Eighty-five percent said that they’re proud to say they’re from Long Island.
Sixty-two percent said the future of Long Island is bright.
“They want to stay here, they want to have intergenerational connections, they want to stay in the place they grew up,” said Rita Ciolli, editor of Newsday’s editorial and opinion pages and director of nextLI. “They just don’t see that possibility.”
The inaugural nextLI survey on the attitudes of Long Island’s young adults was compiled using more than 1,800 interviews with 18- to 34-year-olds who were either living on the Island or born here. The data were collected between Feb. 18 and March 4.
“What they told us paints a picture worth paying attention to,” the study said.
The reason the age group cited most for leaving? The cost of living.
Their biggest complaint was taxes, even for those who rent or live with relatives, the survey found.
Thirty-five percent live in the home of a parent or a relative while 66 percent had or have student loans.
“Those people who have student loans are delaying life events because of that debt,” said Amy Emmatty, managing director of YouGov, the independent, Internet-based public opinion and research firm that conducted the survey.
Homeownership rates are lower among Long Islanders than their counterparts nationwide, Emmatty said.
Portia Ingram, 30, of Bay Shore, is among those surveyed who live with their parents.
After college and graduate school, she started a business focused on helping people get organized, The Helpful Planner. But she still carries student debt and plans to move out of state within five years to somewhere less expensive.
“I know I will progress,” Ingram said. “It will just take a longer time than maybe someone in my shoes 20 years ago.”
John Schneidawin, 32, of North Babylon, who was among the surveyed, owns a single-family home and has three children. His path to homeownership involved sacrifices such as getting by on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, he said.
Schneidawin struggles under the weight of student loans and taxes, but wants his children raised on Long Island as he was. “I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen," he said.
The nextLI survey found the majority of respondents believe changes to municipal housing policies are key to retaining young Long Islanders. It showed wide support for more variety in housing stock, with a majority of respondents backing mixed-use zoning, micro-apartments, multifamily zoning and home apartments.
Amanda Fiscina, editor for strategy and platforms with Newsday Opinion, said she was pleasantly surprised at the support for new housing.
“We get so much NIMBY on a daily basis, we thought that might have trickled down to this age group,” she said.
The nextLI survey also took a first pulse of young adults who were born on Long Island but currently live in New York City.
This group displayed what Emmatty called a nostalgia for Long Island. By larger margins than those currently living on the Island, the native Long Islanders now in the five boroughs said they believe the Island’s future to be bright, believe it to be on the right track for an environmentally sustainable future and believe it has enough 21st century jobs.
Their top reason for not returning to Long Island is that “it’s too expensive,” according to the nextLI research. They also see a lack of professional opportunities and said their friends no longer live on Long Island.
Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said a "buzz" needs to be generated about Long Island to attract young people, whether it be those who grew up there and left or those from other parts of the country.
The Island's public transit-orientated and pedestrian-friendly downtowns offer some of what millennials like about the city, he said.
"The most successful communities on Long Island have a suburban version of that vibe," he said, listing Huntington, Rockville Centre, Patchogue and Farmingdale as examples. "There are things to do, places to live and jobs to work at in a relatively small circle."
Greg Needle, 28, of Woodbury, president of LiiNCS, a nonprofit supporting young professionals on Long Island, cited a need for “transitional housing” for young millennials — somewhere to live in the years between moving out of their parents’ homes and settling into their first single-family homes.
Schneidawin proposed that restrictions be loosened on “accessory apartment” units, or residences created as part of single-family homes.
Needle and Schneidawin, part of the Long Island Young Professionals Group Leadership Council, which explores means of keeping younger residents from moving away, called for more forums to connect across communities.
Among other findings, the nextLI survey showed:
- 68 percent said racial and ethnic diversity is important, and 71 percent said they want to live near people with views like theirs.
- 68 percent said they favor the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
- 32 percent said they trust law enforcement "a great deal" while 41 percent said they have "some" trust.
Ciolli said nextLI intends to help facilitate Islandwide conversations about a better future for the next generation.
“None of this is short term,” she said. “We’re going to have moderated conversations, we're going to allow people to write essays and post videos and engage in narratives about their situations — try to incrementally get to change on Long Island.”