Where can our young people live?

As school in Region One begins, the sight of children of all ages waiting to be picked up along the bus routes (which were published in last week’s Lake-ville Journal) should be a welcome one. All in the Northwest Corner should also turn their attention once again to the dwindling numbers of families with children who can afford to live in this area, where more and more of those on the tax rolls are part-time residents whose children are grown or go to school elsewhere. There is more than one way this issue can be addressed in our small towns, but an important one is by providing more and better affordable housing.

Did you also see all those bright new teachers, 16 of them, in last week’s Journal? Some of them had salaries that could cover housing in the Region One towns, but others certainly would struggle to find reasonably priced places to live. They may find they must commute so far that it becomes difficult to stick with their jobs, even if they like them and would like to. One cannot help but wonder where they are living and whether they can make a go of it in this beautiful area. Because if they cannot, we will see new faces coming in too soon, so they barely have become familiar with the schools and the students before they need to move on. 

Also in last week’s Lakeville Journal was a story by Leila Hawken about a new Habitat for Humanity home being dedicated in Sharon, and to be occupied hopefully by Labor Day by a family with four children who will attend public schools, Sharon Center and Housatonic Valley Regional High School. The Ciccotellis helped build the home they will soon move into, as is the case with all Habitat homes, but this family clocked more than 1,500 hours of work when they would have been expected to do around 400 hours. This family is clearly highly industrious, and will be welcome additions to their new community. Kudos to all those who have worked so hard at Habitat houses that are sprinkled all over the Northwest Corner, the volunteers, contractors and homeowners, making a difference in the number of places young families can call home here.

And there are other single-family home opportunities, like those offered by the Salisbury Housing Trust, that provide options for people who can afford a mortgage if they can get it with support from an organization. But for others, who would rent, the options are too few and too expensive. Keep track of the columns on these pages by Mary Close Oppenheimer on the issue of affordable housing in Salisbury especially, but in the surrounding towns as well. And keep track of future initiatives that are introduced to offer multi-family affordable rental housing, and keep an open mind. Columnist Mac Gordon has some interesting and creative ideas in his piece this week that are worthy of consideration.

Because both creativity and flexibility will be necessary if more and better housing can become available for young and middle class people here, who are critically important to the healthy core of our communities. Without being able to accommodate such residents, the vitality of our towns will be put at increasingly greater risk.