Sunday, October 29, 2006

Real Estate Migration

Dominicans are on the move. That alone isn't news, but their secondary migration from New York City to Reading, PA is the subject of a recent New York Times article. The story is about relocating far enough outside the big city in order to afford a first home:

Reading, an old industrial town once known for its textile mills, has had a significant Latino population since Puerto Ricans seeking jobs came in the years before World War I, according to Jonathan Encarnacion, the executive director of the Centro Hispano Daniel Torres, a local nonprofit organization.

Mexicans and others have also come in recent years, but the Dominicans are unique in that most — some estimate 90 percent — of them come not directly from the Dominican Republic, but from the New York City area, what social scientists call secondary migration. “We saw a spike after Sept. 11,” Mr. Encarnacion said. “Ask them why they come here, they say, ‘We wanted to get away.’ ”

But many places are “away,” and they chose Reading in no small part for the modestly priced houses. The average house in Reading has risen from $47,000 in September 2004 to $73,000 in September 2006. In New York City, those numbers are called down payments.

This somewhat remarkable migration pattern is part cheap real estate and part chain migration. Pittsburgh has one variable of the equation, affordable housing. Missing is a core community to ease the transition to a new place. Without an established network, one of Pittsburgh's greatest assets will fail to attract any substantial human capital.

Positive publicity will not help Pittsburgh attract new people without tacit knowledge of the region.

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