Enter into a conversation with a 25-year-old who works in Cambridge or Deerfield, or a 65-year-old who has long lived here, and talk will probably turn to housing.
What’s available and what isn’t. The wish list. What young professionals need to move here rather than just commuting to a job here daily. What seniors need if they’re to remain here living independently.
We have a good selection of single-family homes here at a lot of price points. In town and country living, luxury and starter, sprawling and compact, large properties and quarter-acre city lots.
Additionally, to some extent in Cambridge but more so in Deerfield, we have a decent selection of apartments and multi-family offerings for low-income residents and families.
What we’re lacking – those 25 and 65-year-olds will readily tell you — are moderately-priced apartments and condos for young professionals eager to both live and work here and retired professionals eager to let go of caring for a family home.
Adding to the urgency are a series of recent nationwide reports suggesting that a long-standing notion, that young professionals want to live in urban areas, might be history. It appears they are, rather, increasingly interested in living in places like ours with wide open spaces and simpler lifestyles.
They’ll come here, it appears, if we provide them a place to call home.
In recent years, there’s been a start to accommodating young professionals in the apartments at The Vineyards at Cambridge. The Vineyards apartments have been snapped up quickly; we hope that demand spurs more similar construction soon in Cambridge.
And then, last week, came a sign that a tide might be turning in Deerfield.
The owners of Deerfield Coffeehouse, that opened this spring and has become a popular Main Street gathering spot, told the Plan Commission on Sept. 16 that they have purchased two large historic downtown buildings. Their plan is to upgrade the existing apartments in them, that are now more geared toward low-income renters.
After significant remodeling, owners Teresa Pelletier and Joe Howard said they expect to raise the rents. The goal, they said, is to lure residents who have more discretionary income who can easily patronize the growing number of downtown restaurants, coffee shops and services.
Howard and Pelletier’s Deerfield Rentals, LLC, is asking for tax incremental finance assistance from the village, so this isn’t a done deal. The Village Board expects to continue talking to them in October.
Of course, this can’t be overlooked: if you price the current occupants out of these buildings, they still need somewhere to live. Deerfield has a solid history of taking care of its low-income residents; ensuring they can remain living in the village is an important community conversation. We hope another alternative exists or can be created that allows them to keep living locally.
But the prospect of a rising downtown housing tide is exciting. It has the potential to spark a groundswell of change in downtown Deerfield.
Cambridge, meanwhile, hasn’t seen much movement in upgrading downtown housing. But that’s not for lack of conversation. Perhaps, change, too, is around the corner for its downtown, spurred by the success of The Vineyards apartments on the edge of town.
In both communities, the timing feels right for the start of something good.