Long Island is no longer a land of opportunity

Matt Morse, 36, is an entrepreneur and the District 14 appointee to the Suffolk County NextGen Advisory Council. He’s from Babylon Village.

The U.S. economy is doing great — yet many Long Islanders don’t feel that way. The cost of living here being very high has been part of the local conversation for as long as I can remember.

I’m 36 years old, married, a business owner and a homeowner. I know what it costs to live here and it’s a burden on family, friendships and business.

My parents and in-laws are both planning to move out of the state after retirement. Financially, it just doesn’t make sense to stay. Pensions go a lot further in the Carolinas, plus the weather is better. Since our retired parents won’t be local to help raise my kids, like many young families in our area, I will now need to add childcare to my list of monthly expenditures, in addition to losing my parents and many close friends who have left the state for a lower cost of living.

The places they have moved to have vibrant communities with great art and cultural centers, along with quality food, music and other entertainment scenes. Why stay on Long Island when you can get more for less elsewhere?

With all the best young talent departing Long Island, businesses are struggling to fill entry level positions. Not only are there fewer and fewer candidates, but small businesses can’t afford to pay employees the salaries needed to live on Long Island. A typical garden apartment cost about $2,000 per month. That’s $24,000 before you eat, turn on a light or even consider transportation costs.

A small business can’t afford to pay someone right out of college the amount of money they would need to survive on their own — I’ve seen this first hand as owner of an insurance agency in Babylon Village. Without the infusion of young talent, it is difficult for small businesses to grow. Why would a young person stay here when leaving is so much easier?

The issue is not complicated. It’s simple supply and demand. Rentals are overpriced because there aren’t enough of them. Despite the desire of builders to meet these needs, local governments stifle development with bureaucratic red tape. Government waste and inefficiency keeps property taxes inflated while homeowners struggle to make ends meet. The government clearly contributes to the problems.

We as a constituency, more specifically millennials, need to do a better job at holding government officials accountable. We have to educate ourselves about the most basic levels of government such as school boards, village and town governments. We have to fight to let homeowners convert parts of their homes into accessory apartments in a safe and legal way. There needs to be an increase in residential apartment complexes in areas already developed for traffic and commerce. There are ways to build and still protect our suburban sensibility. More housing will create a competitive market and lower prices.

This will result in a more robust and vibrant Long Island. We too can enjoy the great economy the rest of the country is experiencing.