September 10, 2009 - welcome to Reloville!
Something magical happens to children. They grow from extraordinarily self-centered creatures (think of the toddler whose vocabulary centers around the words "no!" and "mine!") to members of a family, capable of both compassion and acts of genuine altruism.
I've been thinking about that after reading an article in Forbes Magazines called "America's 25 Best Places to Live," by Peter Kilborn. You can find it online at www.forbes.com/2009/07/07/relocate-relocation-cities-lifestyle-real-estate-affordable-moving_print.html. It's worth a read.
Here's the good news: of the top 25 places in the United States to relocate (usually in pursuit of a climb up the corporate ladder), three of them are in Douglas County. Coming in at number 4 is Parker. Number 5 is Castle Rock. Number 20 is Highlands Ranch.
Why is that good news? Because the people who live in "Reloville" (Kilborn's word for these hot spots so attractive to rising professionals) are well-educated, tend to make pretty good money, and because they don't stick around very long, keep the housing market churning.
What's the bad news? According to Kilborn, "There is great public indifference to community affairs in many of the country's Relovilles. While, Relos join PTAs and coach soccer, the international sport of all Relovilles, for their kids, many don't join other community groups, run in local elections or contribute to campaigns for community improvements. A Relo can tell you the way to the airport, but not to the city hall.
"'When you come to ask them for money,' Robbie Robinson, a civic leader in Plano, said, 'they know they're not going to benefit from it, so it's harder to get them to contribute.'"
On the one hand, of course, why should anyone put significant personal investment in a short-term relationship with a community? Even if that community starts to decline, to be less attractive as a place for a Relo to briefly alight, he or she will probably get out well ahead of the market drop, and there are bound to be other new places popping up around the country.
It's the market in action. Relovilles are based on the fact that housing is cheaper than it is in the urban employment centers just down the road. But because of the people who keep moving there, most Relovilles have survived the recession quite well. Kilborn writes, "Home prices in the Relovilles around Denver, Atlanta and Charlotte have barely budged."
But it's also the kind of short term thinking that can lead to real problems for these communities. Exhibit A: recent elections for schools and libraries.
When the supply of fresh, cheap housing starts to run out, then what? The infusion of outside cash driving the housing market dries up. The costs of sustainable infrastructure remain.
It turns out that Kilborn expanded his thoughts in a book called "Next Stop: Reloville - Life Inside America's New Rootless Professional Class." I'm pleased to say that we already have it at the library -- 4 copies, with 7 holds already stacked up.
It could be that Kilborn is on to something. It's tempting to say that maybe Relos are stuck in "no!" and "mine!" They haven't really joined the family.
Generally, though, this "rootless new class" seems to be doing quite well. Good for them, but is it good for us?
LaRue's Views are his own.