I was reading one of the articles I posted about yesterday, and had an idea that could completely change Berlin.
Offer a free apartment to any four year college graduate under 30 (or 35, or 28) who will settle in Berlin.
Berlin suffers from a brain drain. Too few young, creative people stay or return to Berlin. As in other places, “the best kids go while the ones with the biggest problems stay, and then we have to deal with their kids in the schools in the next generation.” Those that do stay or that come back are expected to shoulder more than their share of the burden within the community. Berlin needs more creative, educated young people to serve as the foundation for the city.
So how do you get them there? Berlin has an overabundance of housing, some of which will be demolished in the next few years using Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds. What about renovating some of those properties, but instead of turning them into low income houses turn them into free apartments for the people the city needs most.
This plan could work. Use NSP money to buy apartment buildings in need of rehabilitation, and then use BIDPA funds to restore them. Or, if you have to, use all BIDPA money so it avoids the rules associated with government money. Then advertise free places to live for driven people with four year degrees around the southern part of the state, Massachusetts and Maine.
New York City, which has astronomical rents, has a similar program for office space. They have few entrepreneurs compared to Silicon Valley or Boston because the brightest minds are often hired by big firms; the barriers new firms face are too high. The city has started to subsidize office space for start-ups in an effort to build the entrepreneurial culture.
Berlin could do the same thing. The city doesn’t have money, but it does have housing. Offer free rent—residents pay utilities—in a city-owned apartment building. The city would own the property, which, if the city grew, would increase in value. The building would become a solid investment. The city would get new blood and new money, and the people there would build ties within the community. Maybe some of them would move out, but many of them would stay. They would start businesses, get married and buy houses of their own. They would become the city’s next generation, mixing with the few entrepreneurs who stayed.
There would be no reason not to offer this to people from Berlin as well as those from away. The city could stop sending its smartest and best educated kids to Manchester and Boston and reap some of the investment it makes in its youth. It would be a cheap incentive to bring some of them back, and at the same time it would clean up more of the blight.
This is an example of the type of non-traditional thinking Berlin should be employing to figure out how it will move into the next century. Would it work? I don’t know. Go ahead and shoot holes in it, but then propose your own idea of how Berlin can reinvent itself.
Need inspiration? Check out this study from the Chronicle of Higher Education. That’s where I got my idea, maybe it’ll help with yours.