5 Ways to Keep Young People in Mississauga

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What compels people -- especially younger people -- to leave Mississauga?

We've thought long and hard about that and even came up with a few reasons. While some people might leave because a sweet job beckons them elsewhere or love necessitates a move to a new city (or country), others leave because the city is no longer affordable or fun. While Mississauga isn't exactly hurting for residents, it's always good to consider what might prompt people -- millennials in particular -- to flee to the slightly cheaper confines of Milton or the bustling streets of the more vibrant Toronto.

How can Mississauga keep young people interested?

Here are five things people are looking for.

5) Freedom from NIMBYISM

To be fair, NIMBYISM (which stands for Not In My Back Yard) haunts almost every city and town, from rural communities populated by cows and tractors to fast-paced urban jungles laden with bike lanes and skyscrapers. Do you remember all those people in T.O.'s Leslieville neighbourhood who were apoplectic over a nearby local brewery that contained semi-audible talking during the day? In Mississauga, NIMBYISM seems to crop up when talking about mosques, LRTs, subways and entertainment complexes. It's important to point out that not everyone is against any of those things. In fact, there's a huge hankering for more and better public transport and entertainment. Beyond being annoying, NIMBYISM can be expensive (and is partially to blame for the gas plant scandal). It's also counter-productive. Mississauga is, based on population and space alone, a Big City. It needs better transport, better infrastructure and more entertainment complexes. It's important that city brass pick their battles and give the go-ahead to (controversial or otherwise) transit, development and construction plans. No one likes to hear power drills or deal with reduced lanes on busy streets, but everyone likes improvement.  

4) More Affordable Housing

This is a tough one. For people who already own a home, escalating property values are delightful. For those trying to break into the housing market, high prices are daunting, discouraging and exclusionary. While some might suggest that people rent rather than buy, the advice is moot when rental rates are attached to home prices. If a landlord is paying over $1,300 a month to maintain a one-bedroom condo, he or she is not going to charge a tenant $300. The fact that affordability in the city is an issue is no secret. Back in February, Mayor Crombie launched the Mayor's Advisory Board on Poverty and Homelessness. While abject poverty and homelessness might not affect all the young people leaving the city, the disconnect between salaries and home prices/rental rates do. People (everywhere, not just in Mississauga) are simply not making enough money to rent or purchase homes and apartments in the cities they grew up in. This is a tough nut to crack, but it's worth looking into.

3) Better Transportation

The city is working on this and rightfully so. On this front, we have to say that we're grateful that Hazel herself was candid when it came to admitting that she dropped the ball on this one crucial element of urban planning. As it stands, the city's competent (and evolving) bus system is simply not adequate. It can't move people as efficiently as light-rail transit (or, in our fantasies, a subway). While some might argue that the system is good the way it is, having to own a car is a hardship for many people and the bus is simply not always an option -- especially with so much space between neighbourhoods. Although the Hurontario LRT is controversial, it is a start and, at the very least, an acknowledgement of our traffic and transit woes. It might not be perfect, but it could mark the beginning of other innovative public transportation projects.

2) More Entertainment

In terms of entertainment, we could be doing worse. Although we don't have as varied or vibrant a food scene as Toronto, I would put our restaurant culture up against almost anyone's. We have a plethora of big name, ethnic and indie joints and a respectable smattering of relaxed pubs, chic bars and inviting cafes. What we could use is a more far-reaching nightlife scene. As it stands, people have to hit Port Credit, City Centre or Streetsville to bar hop. It would be nice to see more retail and commercial units -- with ample bar and resto space -- crop up in the house-ier districts of Meadowvale, Erindale and Erin Mills. There's also room for more recreational and sporting facilities.

1) More Employment Opportunities in Artistic Fields

In terms of employment, Mississauga is doing well. This 2010 Talent & Employment Profile shows that, as of four years ago, the city boasted over 21,000 businesses that employed about 423,000 people. The same report says the city has a participating labor force of more than 411,000 people. All that said, the jobs seem to be clustered in the manufacturing, retail, healthcare, tech, transportation, finance and wholesale trade sectors. There's nothing innately wrong with this. What would be nice -- especially for new graduates and people working in more creative fields -- would be a few more opportunities to find artistic jobs within the community. It's hard out there for an artist in any city, but with such a thirst for art and culture in Mississauga and so much untapped local talent, job creators at both government and private sector levels should work together to make the city even more hospitable to unique talent. We could benefit from a few more galleries, performance spaces and art festivals. We could also use a few more indie retailers selling handcrafted clothing, jewelry and home decor. If young artists could find employment -- and enjoy a re-invigorated art scene -- they might just stick around. 

 

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