Make us your home page

Assessing the wants and needs of millennials

Even before I read the article in the September issue of Atlantic magazine, I figured it had grim implications for Hernando County.

Its title is The Cheapest Generation ( and its subtitle is Why Millennials aren't buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy.

Obviously, whatever it means for the nation, it means something worse for a state that built its economy on housing.

And if it's bad for Florida, it's extremely bad for Hernando. For many years, just about all we did here was sell houses to people who didn't mind regularly heading elsewhere for jobs or recreation by hopping into their cars.

I don't want to restate the obvious, to pile on. We already know Hernando's economy was too dependent on home-building. Our rates of foreclosure and unemployment tell us all we need to know about how hard the recession hit and how slowly we've recovered.

And if we hit bottom last year, when the county issued only 124 permits for single-family homes, the climb out hasn't exactly been dizzying. This year's total through the end of July was 90 permits.

The purpose here is just to point out that there are now even more compelling reasons to jump on any coherent proposal to steer a new course, and that includes county business development coordinator Mike McHugh's plan for an adult technical education program at Nature Coast Technical High School.

So, beyond the headline, what is the Atlantic story's evidence that Hernando's historical economic model may, in fact, be history?

In 2010, according to writers Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissmann, "adults between the ages of 21 and 34 bought just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, down from the peak of 38 percent in 1985. Miles driven are down, too."

Their data on home buying, meanwhile, comes from a study by a group affiliated with Harvard University: "Between 2006 and 2011, the home ownership rate among adults younger than 35 fell by 12 percent, and nearly 2 million more of them — the equivalent of Houston's population — were living with their parents."

Of course young people are buying fewer homes and cars, you might say. In this economy, everybody is.

Yes, the story says, a simple lack of funds is definitely at play here — not just fewer jobs, but a greater debt burden from student loans that has forced young people to delay major purchases.

But also at play is evidence of shifting values that, for example, make younger people more interested in living in connection with neighbors than impressing them with raw square footage.

"The old cul-de-sacs of Revolutionary Road and Desperate Housewives have fallen out of favor with Generation Y. (Not to mention, I thought, limerock roads in Royal Highlands.) Rising instead are both city centers and what some developers call 'urban light' — denser suburbs that revolve around a walkable town center."

And many parents of teenagers I've talked to have noticed another trend these writers identified — that cars and driving just don't mean as much to young people as they did when we were their age.

Remember how you just had to have your license when you turned 16? With phones and laptops offering access to friends, information and entertainment, my kids — a lot of kids, I've learned — don't feel that way.

"If the Millennials are not quite a post-­driving and post-owning generation, they'll almost certainly be a less-­driving and less-­owning generation," Thompson and Weissmann wrote.

So what, some Realtors might say.

The future of real estate in Hernando, at least the near future, depends not on young people but older ones: the much-touted 77 million baby boomer retirees.

As I mentioned earlier, however, this Atlantic report is not the only evidence forecasting the long-term demise of an economy built on attracting new residents. The great mass of it was compiled in a story ( in Sunday's Perspective section by Tampa Bay Times staffer Michael Kruse.

Among the factors he noted: Baby boomers are more likely to wait longer to retire and, once they do, to stay put.

Said one expert Kruse quoted: "The plausibility of a great retirement in a place like Florida is diminishing."

So, yes, we need a Plan B.

Assessing the wants and needs of millennials 08/28/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 6:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  2. Eat 3-course meals for $35 at these 100 restaurants for Orlando's Magical Dining Month

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multi-course meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte …

    Bulla Gastrobar serves a variety of Spanish and Portuguese dishes.
  3. Plant City farmer hopes robot pickers can save strawberry industry from shrinking labor force


    PLANT CITY — If current trends continue, the region's status as a major strawberry producer will depend in large part on what happens in Mexico.

    Strawberry pickers work during the daytime, when fruit is more likely to bruise. Machine pickers can work at night. The owner of Wish Farms in Plant City is developing automated pickers and hopes to see them at work on a widespread basis in five years. [Times file]
  4. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman sells house for $3 million to new player

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman's multi-million Davis Islands home is staying in the Lightning family. Yzerman sold his 6,265-square-foot house Monday to new defenseman Dan Girardi for $3 million.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman sold for $3 million Monday to Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi. | [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  5. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce


    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]