In response to this post about whether the "residential tourism" of twenty-somethings destroy urban neighborhoods, one reader writes:
As a middle-aged resident of a college town, I know that the charm of my neighborhood owes a lot to the nearby university, an institution that students support with their tuition and scholarly effort, and I appreciate that on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. But on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and especially the next morning, when I pick the beer cans or red cups off my front lawn, and smell the urine in the ally behind my house, I think that twentysomethings do destroy neighborhoods.
This American Life did a show with a similar theme.
Another reader writes:
People look at places like 18th Street in Adams Morgan [a Washington DC strip of bars and restaurants that gets quite crowded and rowdy on weekend nights] and complain that young people who drink alcohol destroy neighborhoods, but if cities would allow bars to open wherever they wanted instead of forcing them into mini entertainment districts, you'd have something more like the neighborhood pub than a mini Bourbon Street in a lot of places. It isn't 20 somethings who make the rules that way. If anything, it's middle-aged city councils and middle-aged Nimby's who can't stand a single bar on a corner in their neighborhood that are responsible for the awfulness of bar districts. And the rules that force bars to close at a certain time. Seriously, you plan to put all the drunk people in one place, kick them onto the street at the same time, and you're surprised that it causes problems?
A third reader:
It isn't the fault of 20somethings that the older generation has conspired to make most neighborhoods boring as sin for anyone not at their wits end providing for children. We're having kids later, partly to avoid all the divorces our parents' had. Forgive us for wanting to live in the few fun neighborhoods in the meantime.
Twenty-somethings bring a vitality and dynamism to neighborhoods that might otherwise be lacking. They also tend to bring an economic boost with them. These are generally good things, unless you like your sleepy neighborhood as it is. But, they are also generally less civically involved and responsible, and relatively new to interacting with the community at large.
Regarding civic involvement, those that want to be involved will be, and those that don't care won't be, regardless of whether they live in their hometown or some new and distant city. Transience can play a large role in civic involvement in that even for those who do care (and I think most do), they might simply not live in one neighborhood long enough to become familiar with the local issues and community organizations, let alone become involved with them. This is going to create civic instability, and the only way to counter it is to have more stable long-term residents in the community, or some authority able and willing to enforce at least the most crucial neighborhood functions, such as safety and public sanitation. This is a battle fought countless times over in every college town.
The other side of this is the concentration effect. The neighborhood wasn't "destroyed" because a single twenty-something moved in, but because 1,000 of them moved in. At least part of the reason this happens is simply that twenty-somethings need to live somewhere, and a neighborhood that gains a reputation for being friendly to twenty-somethings will increasingly attract them to live there. This makes one wonder, why aren't all the twenty-somethings returning to where they came from to begin with? The easiest explanation is that much of the current educated, wealthy, and transient twenty-something crowd in the US grew up in outer ring suburbs, the sort of places where property values are high, rental units are scarce, and 95% of the population is under 18 or over 35. Even when these neighborhoods are economically feasible places to return to, they often lack the diversity, excitement, and social opportunities that are valued by twenty-somethings. So the average twenty-something turns to places that do offer these things. This cycle, you might notice, is self-reinforcing.
These aren't the only reasons and effects, and a more in depth look might have to consider why twenty-somethings are so transient and prone to disrupting neighborhoods to begin with, or the landlords that allow this to happen, or the communities that don't reach out to and assimilate the newcomers. In the end, what all this leads to is family neighborhoods with scarcely a twenty-something in sight, and twenty-something neighborhoods, where families are increasingly pushed out - instead of the ideal, well-mixed neighborhood where young and old, family and transient, can peacefully coexist in a mutually beneficial way. Will the trends and behaviors of the twenty-something change a neighborhood? Absolutely. Is this destroying the neighborhood? Depends on your point of view.