As in other years, September brought the return to school of the thousands of K-12 students who live in Somerville. Crossing guards at many intersections, kids walking with backpacks, and extra traffic at 7:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. are among the many signs of this annual transition to fall.But in 2016 there are not nearly as many school-aged kids in Somerville as there were in decades past. Some of this reduction reflects the natural shifts in generational demographics and in the overall reductions in family size that have occurred over the last 50 years or so. That’s happening everywhere in the United States.
Jobs and Housing for Families
But some of the reduction in Somerville results from the more unnatural forces of economic and housing markets that have made Somerville a more difficult place for families to survive economically. It is simply harder for parents with children to find housing they can afford in Somerville today, and to earn the incomes they need to sustain that housing.
At SCC, we focus every day on that dual challenge of generating enough housing at prices that a wide range of households can afford. And we also identify the job opportunities and career ladders sufficient for the adults in those households to pay for their housing without sacrificing other family necessities.
And, while SCC does not get directly involved in education and education quality issues in Somerville (there are many wonderful people and organizations who do!), we are always mindful that one of the byproducts of our work is evidenced in the numbers of families with school-aged children that are able to sustain themselves economically in our city.
Keeping Families in Somerville
The answers are simple – and enormously complicated at the same time:
- We need to create and preserve enough housing affordable to a wide enough array of households so that we have the kind of community and diversity we want in Somerville, including kids in our schools.
- We need to connect workers in Somerville to jobs at a decent enough pay, and with enough opportunities for advancement, so that they have a fighting chance to manage their earnings to afford their housing, have a decent quality of life, and remain devoted Somervilleans.
As you walk or drive around Somerville in the coming days, and see school kids walking down the street or being dropped off, consider what it takes for the parents of those kids to make it economically in Somerville – and join our quest to help make that happen.