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Housing options are few for young professionals

My boyfriend and I have been looking for a new place to rent. I know, our timing is impeccable. Hunting for housing during the pandemic has been frustrating to say the least, but it has also given me an interesting perspective and pointed out some aspects of Farmville that I think could use some improvement.

To be fair, we really did choose an awful time to look for a new place. Scouring the internet for apartments or rooms to rent is frustrating. Every day there are the same two, maybe three places listed online, and most websites just show long, long lists of townhouses labeled, “No availability.”

I suppose this has a lot to do with the fact that most Longwood students, although currently not in town, have already made housing selections for the coming year. It’s pretty slim pickings for the rest of us young adults who have since graduated.

One thing that will help the Town of Farmville to grow and blossom would be the attraction of young professionals to live and work in our area. One would hope that those growing up or attending college in the area would fall in love with the town and want to return after graduation to become a part of our economy. Or, perhaps other people starting out in the workforce would be drawn here with the hope of beginning a promising career and taking advantage of Farmville life.

But how are we to encourage these young professionals to come back to work in Farmville and contribute to our economy when there’s simply no place for them to live here? It is great to provide housing to the college students, but it seems every residential space is renovated and rented out exclusively for Longwood students. Even the town’s two main apartment complexes are populated mostly by college students. While it’s great that we can expand the colleges’ student bodies by offering them more housing, we are making a mistake by having extremely limited housing for new graduates or even those in our community that just aren’t looking to buy a house right now.

A lack of variety in housing also means a lack of competition in pricing, and young people are already having to face much higher costs of living than a few decades ago. According to Zumper.com, the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Farmville is $995 before utilities. Young adults in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 24 make on average $2,496 per month before taxes, and quite often a lot less if they are working in a small town.

Long ago, the supposed golden rule used to be that a renter shouldn’t be spending more than 30% of their monthly income on rent, but USA Today and other sources tell us today’s younger generation of workers is spending on average 45% of its income on rent. Baby boomers were spending closer to 36% in their first decade in the workforce, which, to be fair, is still more than that golden percentage.

All of the realtors, leasing agents and other folks we’ve met along the way have been very kind, and I have no doubt we will find a place to live, even if we need to put things off as much as we can while the world hopefully gets closer to normal.

Farmville needs to look at more housing options for its non-college-student community. A bigger student body is great and those students contribute a lot to our businesses and society as a whole, but if we want people to move here, get jobs here and consistently contribute to the local economy of which they are a part, we have to give them places to rest their heads. We need to work toward attracting new housing options in our future.

When I graduated, I didn’t want to just run away to the big city and leave my hometown behind. I wanted to come back and be a part of Farmville, at least for a little while. I love living in Farmville, but looking for housing has made it feel like there’s practically no room for me to be a part of it.

I have hope for the future and will continue my search. Wish me luck.

Alexa Massey is a staff reporter for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Alexa.Massey@FarmvilleHerald.com.