Defending diversity on the home front


Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer
Sun Publications 2009-02-09
Susan_Carlman_01 Jonathan Miano / Staff Photographer Sun Publications 2009-02-09

As if more were needed, there’s a new reason to move to Naperville: it’s hip.

So says a freshly compiled list of the best hometowns for fresh college graduates. says Naperville scores highly on its array of determinants — things like jobs, stuff to do outdoors, night life, educational institutions, good medical care and well-run government. Not least notably, the distinction says the city sports “a hip vibe.” That’s no small thing.

It also says the community scores well on the availability of residential rentals, which is a good sign.

Sure, renters are sometimes cast as less desirable sorts of neighbors than those who’ve bought their residences, which presumably gives them greater incentive to keep their places up and be decent neighbors. I say that gives renters a bad rap.

For a full laundry list of reasons, renting is a great thing for some of us. Let’s face it: a mortgage can be a scary thing to sign. That massive debt, and those decades it will be tethered to us, like ball and chain to ankle — pretty frightening, all right. But that doesn’t make those quivering at the idea bad neighbors.

Besides, when a community offers the option of different sorts of domiciles, places of all shapes and sizes, priced at all levels, it draws interest.

I don’t mean simply that it attracts those whose current professions and financial means put them somewhere shy of the needed positioning to purchase a home at the city’s median value of $370,500 (that’s from the 2010 U.S. Census, so sad to say, it’s surely lower than that now, but work with me here). What I mean is that having an array of housing types makes the community more interesting.

When this region underwent its manic expansion over the last three decades of the 20th century, builders put in much overtime constructing roofs to go over the heads of a Naperville population that increased by 575 percent during the period. Much of the new housing stock was lovely, stately, appealing homes — the sort of residence far beyond the budgets of most families.

So much has happened since the new millennium began, here and everywhere else. Fortunes have risen and, sadly, fallen. Neighborhoods have turned over, or tried to, as many continue to stand post-foreclosure vacant. And many new faces have arrived, representing backgrounds and experiences with a thoroughly splendid diversity.

This is no longer a place that primarily fits the well-to-do, white-collar set. And that’s a good thing.

Rental accommodations are indeed easier to find than they used to be. The sprawling apartment development near Route 59 and 95th Street, designed to be as affordable as it is convenient, is nearing completion. City officials are talking about giving better structure to their oversight of the rental culture here, which would probably allay some of the concerns about the risk of neighborhood blight that have begun to arise with the foreclosure trend.

Diversity is a good thing, be it traced to economics or ethnicity, philosophy or faith. A broad variety of human traits is what makes the fabric of a community rich and lustrous and, well, interesting.

In short, it makes it the sort of place people want to live.