One of the treasured qualities about the South Orange Maplewood community is its economic diversity. They are known to be towns of “inclusion.” This diversity has many positive effects on the community as a whole. One of the best is its effect on the the public school system. Students from a wide range of socio economic (and cultural) backgrounds learn from and be-friend each other – which is equally or more important than what they can learn from books. Learning to be accepting and non-judgemental are equally as important as getting an “A” on an exam. This is often referred to as “Social IQ,” and scientists say this metric is a better predictor of a person’s satisfaction with their life than anything else.
Lately, I have heard from friends, colleagues and neighbors about a concern that SOMA may be losing its economic diversity. As we all know, housing prices have been going up in both towns year-over-year for the past 6 years. The concern I’ve heard expressed is “will SOMA become a more affluent, less socio-economically diverse community?”
So, I did some analysis comparing South Orange Maplewood housing prices to comparable towns in Essex County. The results are every town has experienced home sale price increases – with the exception of West Orange. The same house today costs more than it did 6 years ago in SOMA, Montclair, Millburn and Livingston. Though the median sale price in SOMA rose 17% and 15% respectively, it is still lower than the median sale price in Montclair, Millburn, and Livingston.
So the answer is, it is all relative. Yes SOMA prices are rising at a higher rate than the other towns, but the prices started off so much less and still remain less than prices in those other towns. As of today housing is still more affordable in SOMA – but who can say what the future holds.