Give Us Your Burned Out Millennials

Fox River, Indiana [source]

The little city down the road from the little town in which I live announced this week that it wants to add 5,000 residents to its population. I think it’s a great idea. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Or maybe just your burned out millennials in search of affordable housing.

My friends who live mid-city shared a link on social media recently to a house for sale in their neighborhood. “Come be our neighbors!” It was a nice house. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a basement, a manageable yard. It listed for under $200,000.

Out-of-state friends were gobsmacked. “What’s wrong with it?!”

There was nothing wrong with it. That’s what houses sell for here.

You want one?

Yes, it’s a small city in the Midwest. No, it doesn’t have a scene of any kind, except maybe sports; people are into basketball here. And high school football.

And, yes, the statehouse is full of reactionary Republicans and the state produced two of the most milquetoast vice-presidents in recent memory, but Indiana voters chose Obama in ’08. Yes, we did.

It’s true we’re powered by coal, and there are lots of big pickup trucks with stickers on the back reminding us that “coal keeps the lights on.” But we’re retiring the coal-fired plants — oh, so slowly — and we’re adding solar farms. Lots of solar farms.

Public transportation is abysmal here, there’s no denying it. But there are bike lanes (for the brave) and an off-street bike route that connects my little town to that not-so-big city, and a bicycle-and-pedestrian masterplan that’s translating into actual trail miles in the real world, not just in a slide deck. Astonishing, I know.

Property and other taxes are low, which is a mixed blessing, given that we want nice things but have no way to pay for them. But it does make it easier for people without a trust fund to afford that house.

The city’s downtown is livable, walkable. There are food trucks and art fairs. There’s a new bookshop (!!) on Main Street, owned by a couple local guys who went away and came back. People do that here. They leave, and they come back.

Plus, Hoosier National Forest is gorgeous.

Also: we’re not experiencing drought or wildfires. Which is not nothing.

There’s something to be said for aspiring to a functional life in a place less… aspirational. The Midwest is not sexy, but it’s do-able. So, sure. Bring us 5,000 intrepid sojourners. Maybe not all at once, but soon. We’ll leave the porch light on for you, powered by solar!

Once more for the folks in back: Indiana! It’s not that bad!

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