SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 10, 2013

Our view: Still work to be done on Peabody housing proposal

(Continued)

What’s more, the fact remains that renting, while often less expensive than home ownership, is not cheap. Rents in Greater Boston now average $1,800 a month, the third highest level in the nation. And the median rent in the area is $1,000, according to a study released yesterday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The best way to drive down cost is to make more units available. As the study’s authors note, “rehabilitation of older buildings would provide the kind of modest but secure housing that is difficult to add through new construction.”

The Main Street proposal has much going for it, including the support of City Hall.

Before last week’s vote, Community Development Director Karen Sawyer wrote that her department had no objections to the $1.1 million project. “We look forward to working with the new owner as he looks to transform this property,” Sawyer wrote. “We also look forward to assisting NSCAP … to more suitable quarters.”

The sale is also important to NSCAP, as it would bring in much-needed money to the organization, which counts 3,700 Peabody residents among those it serves.

“It’s very important for our organization that’s being hit with federal cuts and state cuts,” NSCAP’s Susan Fletcher told councilors last week. What’s more, she added, the move would also add the property to the tax rolls, which should be welcomed by taxpayers across the city.

And if councilors are truly interested in revitalizing the downtown, the city needs to have more people living there.

“If Mr. Lee doesn’t go in there today or tomorrow, we’re looking at a rundown building,” Councilor Dave Gamache said. “What we don’t need downtown is another vacant building.”

There is a glimmer of hope. Councilors spent a lot of time trying to forge a compromise before taking their tie vote. A deal can still be reached.

Time to get back to work.

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