There has been a lot of attention lately towards the inability for young adults to successfully enter the housing market. Reasons for the absence of 20-30 year olds in the homeowner category vary from high student loan debt to limited affordable housing options.

According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, student loans now account for a greater portion of consumer debt than either credit cards or auto loans. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that the total value of outstanding student loans nearly quadrupled between the start of 2003 and the third quarter of 2012, from $241 billion to just under $1 trillion. According to the Project on Student Debt, 54% of graduates from 4-year institutions in South Carolina have student loan debt, with the average debt totaling $25,662.

In 2011, the unemployment rate for young college graduates was 9.4%, compared to an overall national unemployment rate of 9.1%. The underemployment rate was event greater, at 19.1%. The inability to secure employment upon graduation further restricts young people’s ability to purchase a home.

Limited financial resources and substantial personal debt are just the beginning. Take into account rising housing prices, and it becomes clear why young people are locked out of homeownership opportunities. The median price home in the Charleston tri-county area is $181,750; a homeowner must earn approximately $66,253 to afford a home at this price.

As a community, we must provide homeownership opportunities for the younger generation. We must work long-term to increase the average salary for workers fresh out of college and create housing options in the short term that are affordable for workers earning the region’s average salary of $46,782.

When you become a homeowner, you become a member of the neighborhood. You become involved in community issues. You become an advocate for your community’s needs. The younger generation will become our community leaders of tomorrow. We must provide opportunities today in order to create vibrant, sustainable communities for the future.