Young people across South Florida are donning gowns and patting mortarboards on their heads. They are being implored to follow their passion, create their futures, be all that they can be. When the pomp and circumstance are all over, they likely will toss those caps into the air to celebrate their transformation from “student” to “college graduate.”
The luckiest have already lined up a well-paying job, one that can help provide food, shelter and fun. Greater Miami will be extremely fortunate, too, if it can hold on to these educated, energetic grads.
But this is not the easiest community in which to forge an independent, self-reliant path. For the good of this community’s long-term robustness, those in both the public and private sectors must take a second look at how best to retain the talent and the know-how that its institutions of higher learning are unleashing. As it stands, too many grads will have a hard way to go — if they decide to stay here.
First, the ability to find a good job in greater Miami — one that pays for the essentials, with something left over — often depends on one’s field of study. Hospitality, healthcare and business degrees are likely more salable than one in art history or architecture.
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The good news is that Miami rewards entrepreneurial drive and innovation. But most times, recent graduates just need a good job. But many millennials decry the area’s lack of economic diversity, even as its tech sector continues to grow.
Then this: There is a serious dearth of affordable housing in South Florida, and in greater Miami, in particular. The market for luxury homes and condominiums is soaring, and so are rental costs. But that is the market that developers, with municipalities’ eager help, are accommodating, understandably. In some neighborhoods, affordable homes and rentals are being replaced — and the people who live in them displaced.
One of the results is that Mom and Dad can’t turn the kid’s room into that home office just yet: Between 2009 and 2013, almost 42 percent of people between 18 and 35 years of age in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach metropolitan corridor lived with one or both of their parents. That’s the highest rate in the nation, and more than 10 points higher than that national average, which stands at 30 percent.
Ricardo Mor, 24, who writes a biweekly Other Views column on issues that affect millennials in greater Miami, says that his own experience is typical among his friends. He says that if he didn’t live at home, “I’d have almost no money left over for disposable income or savings. If I wanted to live close to downtown (where I work) in a fairly new or newly renovated building, I’d be paying at least $800 a month for a share of a two-bedroom. Add on top of that costs of owning a car — which is essential even if you live in the city center.” And he has a full-time job that (1) he likes and (2) pays, he says, “a decent salary.”
The demand for affordable housing in South Florida is trumped by the demand for luxury properties — condos and rentals — and the money they reap is a disincentive for developers to build housing that working families and others, such as recent graduates, can afford. The median rent for a one-bedroom unit is about $1,800 a month.
Combine these challenges with a community that is ever-so-slowly making it easier to commute without their cars, and there’s a constant battle to stem Miami’s “brain drain.” Remember the admonition that, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste?” It’s a terrible thing to drive away, too.