It seems the flood of millennials that have been coming to the District has come to an end. The population of 25-34 year olds has shown significant signs of drying up. The change has been drastic; in 2010, the year millennial growth outpaced that of any other city in the country, 10,430 individuals in that age range moved into the District, compared to only 2,662 millennials in 2014. This huge surge in the young adult population subsequently led to the rapid rise in apartment housing and restaurants catering to a more transient and youthful way of life. This sharp change in demand has some worried. “We have concerns about the millennials and their appetite to move into DC,” says Cardinal Bank president Kevin Reynolds. Kevin’s counterpart, EVP of real estate lending Andy Peden, says millennials are “just like every other generation,” except they are postponing larger life decisions. While there is still demand for housing and more specifically apartments, this shift will more than likely lead to either rental stabilization or a drop in prices.
What’s more important is why this happening is, and what the effects are. Over the last decade college graduates from all over the country have been pouring into District neighborhoods that had suffered from earlier blight and disinvestment. Now neighborhoods like Shaw, Columbia Heights, NoMa, and H Street NE are seeing tremendous growth and increasing home values. The arrival of primarily white collar, white workers felt like an invasion to some. Many new developments and restaurants in the District co-opted the names of historically significant African American figures and events for their high priced eateries and housing complexes, a sort of cultural appropriation.
One of the main contributors to the waning growth is the large decrease in public sector jobs; D.C. lost 11,800 public sector jobs in the past four years. Millennials have also become victims of their own success. The high housing cost that is excluding an entirely new population of young adults was in part generated by the demand created by their predecessors. This is why Director of Planning, Eric Shaw said he was “excited by the fact that people are remaining here.”
“We need to have a wide range of housing choices. So it’s not just the micro-units,” he said. “People are deciding to remain here for longer as they find a partner, add a dog, start a family. They are finding the neighborhood where they want to be.” And we also need to have more affordable housing and Class B apartments. Over the last decade, high end and Class A properties have been the focus to cater to a growing affluent population, but in the wake, the District’s affordable housing has decreased.
Now the time to truly address the city’s housing crisis. While new comers are scarcer, we need to take a harder look at how we can do more for the District’s long-term at-risk households.