A lack of affordable housing in Sarasota and Manatee counties is forcing young people elsewhere, young people tell ABC Action News. Now some are taking this fight straight to county and city leaders.
As a freelance photographer, Tyler McCool found most of his clients are in downtown Sarasota. The problem was that he was living 45 minutes away.
"When you talk about driving two hours a day, it changes," he said. "Your day starts earlier and ends later."
He made the move downtown, which cut his commute. But now he has several roommates. Still, McCool says for him, it's worth it.
"It just makes a lot more sense for me to live in a convenient location and save a couple hours a day," he said.
Sarasota Underground, a local community group made up of millennials, says the number one issue affecting young workers is affordable housing.
"People want to live here," said Raymmar Tirado of Sarasota Underground. "But it becomes very difficult for them to stay or for them to afford the place that they want and so then they start looking for opportunities elsewhere."
They've partnered with Sarasota and Manatee counties to form millennial Con. It's a conference where twenty and thirty-somethings will speak directly with city and county leaders about affordable housing. They will also discuss the importance of drawing in and keeping talented young workers.
"It's a very powerful message, and we hope that it's a catalyst for more conversation and more collaboration,"
said Anisley Mena of Manatee County Neighborhood Services.
Manatee County reps say while their population is growing, it's retirees, not young workers.
"If we don't start making housing," Mena said. "How are we going to get the young workforce to stay here?"
With few young people, they say it will be hard to infuse Sarasota and Manatee with profitable new innovation. Those with Sarasota Underground said young people are ready to take the lead.
"For us to start building some kind of foundation so that we can get to that point where we're becoming some of the decision makers, the movers and shakers in this town," Tirado said.
MCon will serve as a catalyst to help shape the future vision of local towns in the Tampa Bay area, said Ogden Clark, one of the event’s organizers on the county's website.
M3 has spent the last year informing local young professionals and college students about civic engagement opportunities, focusing on affordable housing, leadership roles and overcoming millennial apathy.
Millennial Con is the follow up to last year’s #iSeeManatee event that brought out hundreds of people to talk about what they would like to see Manatee County look like in the future.
“We want to develop our county’s future leaders and have them take ownership in their community,” Clark said. “The resounding message from M3 in the past year has been ‘stop talking about us and start talking to us.’”