Downtown_Uptown Foxboro

Downtown Foxboro.

Nearly 800 people who responded to a recent housing survey have reinforced a widely held belief that Foxboro’s housing mix makes it tough for the young, the old and the economically challenged to live here.

These were among the preliminary findings of an online survey generated by the planning department and posted online the week of April 17-25. All told, 791 respondents answered a series of questions related to existing housing opportunities in Foxboro — a sizable number under the circumstances. While seen as a starting point for future deliberation, their views provide an interesting — albeit incomplete — snapshot of those who comprise the local populace and how they view their future here.

For example, 82 percent of those responding own their own home, with 30 percent living in town more than 30 years and 20 percent residing here five years or less. Just over 18 percent grew up in Foxboro, with 9.5 percent moving here because of family ties, another 9 percent because of the local school system and 30.5 percent attracted by intangibles best characterized by the community’s “feel.” Perhaps most tellingly, 82 percent said they would like to live in Foxboro over the long term — into their retirement years — while acknowledging that such arrangements may not always be feasible.

In addition, 61 percent of those responding believe that Foxboro faces social and economic challenges stemming from current housing options. Another 73 percent said current housing options make it difficult for all demographic groups to live here. And 39 percent identified senior citizens as facing the greatest challenges for housing, while 35 percent identified young families as being most challenged.

Such sentiments shouldn’t be surprising given the escalating cost of real estate or the proliferation of local homes purchased specifically as tear downs to make way for newer and larger dwellings. According to assessing data for the fiscal year ending June 30, the average single-family home in Foxboro is valued at $454,500.

Over the course of several years, town officials have used a variety of methods to promote new housing opportunities. Having met the town’s obligations under the state Chapter 40b zoning override program, recent efforts have focused on the town center — partly in response to input from the small business community but more critically from Schneider Electric, which suggested that such options were vital to the company’s ability to recruit young talent and bolster its local workforce going forward.

Not surprisingly, the prospect of greater density, traffic and associated congestion has been alarming to some who believe it will erode the very charms which attracted many to Foxboro in the first place. These will remain legitimate concerns no matter the fate of the former fire station/funeral home property, a lightning rod which was to have been decided by selectmen Wednesday night.

The aforementioned survey results indicate that Foxboro may have an opportunity to revisit, and possibly re-evaluate, its goals in the town center, however. With that in mind, planning officials hope to use the preliminary findings to jump start a series of focus groups with various stakeholders, hopefully providing a clearer picture of where homeowners, renters and business leaders stand on this pivotal issue. Given the emotional backdraft which characterized the fire station project, we suggest that such a process would be welcome.

He was missed …

Sharp-eyed observers gathered at the Common Monday morning may have noted a conspicuous absence from the town’s traditional Memorial Day ceremonies. For the first time in 29 years Dave Gaffey, longtime member, trustee and former commander of American Legion Post #93, was unable to participate in the annual services.

Long a fixture in combat fatigues as a flag-bearer in the Legion Color Guard, Dave spent Monday morning reflecting on the occasion at his Elm Street home, where he has been recuperating from health issues. We’re certain that we speak for the entire community in wishing Dave a complete recovery — and a return to his customary position on Memorial Day in 2020.

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