There is no better way to illustrate the issue of affordable housing than hearing real stories from the people most affected in our community.
Salisbury Bank and Trust Company currently employs more than 140 people in its seven branches in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. “The cost of housing is a significant factor in the hiring and retention of employees, particularly younger employees,” says Salisbury Bank president Rick Cantele.
“I believe there is a definite advantage both for our workers and for our company to have our employees who live locally,” says Mr. Cantele. “Customers enjoy seeing familiar faces working in their local branches.” He knows that employees who have shorter commutes are more involved in their communities; they’re more likely to coach Little League teams, supervise after–school activities, and volunteer for local town boards and commissions.
In the past few years, the bank has seen several of its employees move to urban areas like Torrington and Poughkeepsie, where there is more reasonably priced housing. “Once they move away,” says Cantele, “it’s only a matter of time before they look for jobs closer to where they live.” As a community–minded banker, Mr. Cantele understands how crucial it is to have housing options for anyone and everyone who calls our region home.
Salisbury Selectman Bob Riva wishes his son, Tyler, could have found a home he could afford in Salisbury, Connecticut. “Tyler moved to North Carolina where he just purchased a new house for $181,000,” he says. “A comparable house here would have cost around $350,000.”
Tyler grew up in Salisbury, and joined the Lakeville Hose Company—the town’s volunteer fire department—as a junior member when he was 12. After graduating from Housatonic Valley Regional High School, he joined the United States Marines, and served four years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tyler then returned to his hometown to make a life for himself, working as a landscaper. He re–joined the volunteer fire department, began working on his EMT certification, and started looking for a house.
“Tyler would have loved to have lived here, but when he came home from the Marines and started looking for a house to buy, he got very frustrated,” says Mr. Riva. “After being in the Marines, he couldn’t just come home and live in his father’s house. He wanted his independence because he earned it and deserves it. I have one grandchild nearby and I would hope that all my grandchildren could live nearby.”
“Norfolk was a beautiful town to be raised in,” says Matt Adamson. “I’d love to make my way back there.” Today, Adamson lives with his wife and young children in Torrington, Connecticut, about 30 minutes from Norfolk, where his parents still reside. “We are renting in Torrington. Trying to find rentals in Norfolk is difficult,” he says. “The few that exist are kind of steep, especially for a family of four.”
Adamson works full–time for a landscaping service in Norfolk where his employer—who is chief of the Norfolk ambulance service—encouraged him to volunteer as an EMT. Adamson devoted 155 hours to his training on nights and weekends. Because he works in town for a supportive boss, he’s has been able to cover day shifts and respond to calls during the workday for the past four years.
Nevertheless, volunteering in a town half an hour from where he lives is problematic on many levels. Adamson has taken a second job to save money, hoping that he can eventually buy a house in Norfolk. He’d like his children to live near their grandparents and go to the same public school he attended as a child.
After living and working in Millerton, New York, for more than 50 years, a senior couple (who prefer to remain anonymous) with a fixed income worries that they will have to move to an unfamiliar community. They would love to stay in the house where they’ve lived for the past fifteen years, but it’s gotten hard for them to take care of the yard. In addition, they have physical challenges that make it difficult to get in and out of their house. “A one–level apartment would be ideal for us,” says the wife. However, they have found the region lacking in housing options for seniors of modest means. The only rental units available that they can afford either have stairs or lack laundry facilities.
Like many seniors, this couple lives on a fixed income. They need a housing option that is both affordable and accessible. “With the prices of everything going up, taxes and groceries, it’s hard to afford the cost of living here anymore,”says the wife. “Unfortunately, we may have to move out of town.”
Members of the Lakeville Hose Company volunteer between twenty and fifty hours each month for training, fundraising and fighting fires. Yet many of them can’t afford to buy or rent homes in the community to which they devote so much of their time.
“I live in Canaan, Connecticut, and it takes over 20 minutes for me to get to afire here in town,” notes Doug. “And every second counts when you’re racing toa fire in the middle of the night.” “I grew up here, work here, have lived here all my life,” explains William. “Most of us started volunteering for the fire company as teenagers,” adds Jamie. The fire department keeps them connected to the family and friends they have known all their lives.
Why would these firefighters volunteer their time in a town that they can’t afford to live in? Many of the younger firefighters have two or three day jobs on top of volunteering for the Hose Company. If the town loses the next generation of volunteers because they can’t afford to live here, it will weaken the fire department, and the town may have to raise taxes to cover the expense of a paid fire staff, which could cost up to $3 million per year.
Community Engagement Officer for Initiatives & Special Projects
413.229.0370 x 109
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