20-Somethings Move Into Neighborhoods And Offer Nothing

by Mark Wellborn

Lydia DePillis over at Housing Complex had an interesting re-post today of an item from The Atlantic’s Future of the City blog that examines whether or not “20-somethings weaken communities they inhabit for a few months or a few years before moving on.”

The Future of the City blog used the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope as a case study for this theory, which is appropriate if you are familiar with “The Slope”. Once dominated by moms and strollers, Park Slope has become a popular area in the past decade for young professionals who don’t mind squeezing three people into a legal one-bedroom to pay cheap rent.

The author of this item admitted that when he lived in Park Slope, he did not register to vote, read neighborhood publications, try to meet people in neighboring buildings, or volunteer locally. While to many, this civic inactivity may seem unfortunate, long-term residents likely appreciate that the three-year residents are not getting involved. DePillis seems to agree:

“Living in different places is clearly a great thing for a young folks’ development, but how can they do so without seeming like a plague of locusts to the communities where they take up residence? The answer, it would seem, is that if you’re only planning to be in a place for a few years, treat it like a delicate ecosystem—learn about it, care for it, but leave no trace.”

This opinion makes sense to us. Essentially, if you are not planning on buying or staying in a specific area, do not get involved in shaping the face of the neighborhood to suit your needs if you will be heading elsewhere in the near-term.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/20-somethings_move_into_neighborhoods_and_offer_nothing/2125


  1. SImonF said at 4:43 pm on Tuesday June 1, 2010:

    Interesting theory. I agree that unless you are going to be a long-term resident, you should stay out of the decision-making processes for the policies and rules of the neighborhood that you live in. I have lived in Kalorama for about three years, but will likely be buying in another neighborhood soon, so trying to influence local customs and regulations would just be selfish at this point.

  1. Diane said at 7:22 pm on Tuesday June 1, 2010:

    Affordable housing is a real problem with no easy solution.  Gentrification has upsides and downsides.  Sure, young professionals sometime fuel gentrification by seeking “affordable” housing—but what is the alternative?

    I agree that many young people do not get involved in local government.  More should (unless they’re just there for the summer, maybe).  I’m young and involved, so I have a bias (but I’m not planning to leave my neighborhood anytime soon).  Young people can help counter act the anti-change views of the longtimers in positive ways.  Do longtimers necessarily like this? No. I’ve seen newcomers excluded from the civic process—no apartment-dwellers allowed to join civic association, for example.

  1. Janson said at 11:22 am on Wednesday June 2, 2010:

    Fascinating topic. It’s a little tricky, however, to know what one’s own intentions are for later in life. I also find it difficult to imagine discouraging a 20 something from engaging in their civic community. We ask them to buy local, to consume ecologically, to limit their water and electricity use, to not be noisy, and a million other things. It seems like those rare 20 somethings that want to engage, deserve it. I’d also like to propose that young people’s enthusiasm is valuable and that they may also make up a disproportionate share of early adopters, which makes them helpful to learn from. Finally, don’t renters of all ages serve as a proxy for the absent landowner? When I was an early 20 something in Park Slope many years ago I didn’t vote, but I was an eager booster of the neighborhood, spent my money nearby, and helped rehab the apartment I was renting. I helped shape the face of the neighborhood to suit me, and in my opinion, the neighborhood benefited even though I only lived there for four years.

  1. PleasantPlainer said at 11:22 am on Wednesday June 2, 2010:

    I have to disagree. If these “types” of residents (not necessarily the individuals living in a neighborhood currently per se) are anticipated to be a part of the neighborhood fabric for a long time, than they should be encouraged to engage and be a part of the decision making process. Otherwise, they will not have it in them to “learn about it, care for it, but leave no trace”. If there are rentals serving these 20-somethings, then they should participate just as much as elderly renters should. Their engagement could leave a legacy for the next 20-something residents who will likely be more understood and ideally welcome in the area. Their voice and perspective are valid. They may even point out things that their landlords won’t as their landlords may never be around, and their “outsider” status may cause them to speak out about things that others tolerate. They can also look out for neighbors interests and be “eyes on the street”. Finally, you’re prepping them for civic engagement when they finally put roots down. I can’t see a down side.

  1. Morgan said at 12:00 pm on Wednesday June 2, 2010:

    I think that this is a valid theory that makes a lot of sense, but just because you own your house in a neighborhood, doesn’t mean that you get the last say.  Young or old, renting or owning, family or single, ideally it is important that everyone participates and has a say in their community.  I think it is stupid for someone to encourage a young person NOT to get involved in politics (local or in general) because they are “temporary” residents, they could have beneficial ideas and plus I believe that a neighborhood should change with its residents.  If one wants more of an inclusive community, go to a gated or condo community or really get out of DC.  DC is a mecca of young professionals, so they are expected to be everywhere because there is a lot of opportunity here.  Haha but please bear in mind that I am a young professional myself who has been in my neighborhood for almost 5 years (H Street/Atlas).  When the Census rolls around everyone wants to make sure that everyone is accounted for, but when it comes to neighborhood politics, only ‘long-term’ residents and owners have a real say.  I think that is silly.

  1. Kate said at 12:12 pm on Thursday June 3, 2010:

    I’ve been renting in the same Cap Hill Neighborhood for about a decade now.  I get tired of people acting like “renters” are some sort of plague on humanity.  Some are obnoxious,  but so are some property owners.

    I don’t see the point in discouraging people from getting involved in local issues.  Plus, DC is my home, while I probably will leave my immediate block sometime fairly soon, I’m not going to leave the city.  Exactly how much longer do I need to stick around before I count?

  1. Bellamy said at 1:16 pm on Thursday June 3, 2010:

    @ Kate—As a ten-year resident of the same neighborhood, I don’t think that you fall into the category of people that the Atlantic blog is talking about. It is more focused on those people that live there for a couple years and then leave.

  1. DCster said at 2:41 pm on Thursday June 3, 2010:

    I don’t think there is a good excuse not to register to vote - obviously there are more than local elections on the ballot every 2 years.  I think involvement in other ways makes sense as well, with the exception of things involving longer-term changes (ie new infrastructure planning) that will long outlast that person’s stay.

  1. lauren said at 4:23 pm on Thursday June 3, 2010:

    A couple of thoughts: Not all homeowners have the best interest of the neighborhood as a whole in mind either. For example you can find ANC reps who oppose development that a majority of residents would support. Secondly, in many neighborhoods in DC renters are the majority. It would seem weird to me to have a setup of neighborhood governance run entirely by a minority (property owners).

  1. Brian said at 11:09 pm on Monday June 7, 2010:

    It’s odd to read this article referring to Park Slope.  Most 20-somethings I know are avoiding Park Slope like the plague BECAUSE of the uptight bland place that it has become.  They should be thrilled to have the vitality and new ideas coming in from the 20-somethings.  Volunteering at the food co-op doesn’t necessarily make you the perfect neighbor…a pulse of your own would help.

    - signed, a 39.8 year old

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾