The Burlington School Board resolution asking the City Council to spread low-income housing more evenly around the city adds a twist that would place more obstacles in the way of creating low-cost housing.COMMENT: Always loyal to it's corporate and developer interests, the Free Press is dead wrong. Integrating affordable housing in all parts of the city, not segregating it in certain areas only, is not utopian at all. It is a moral issue to keep our neighborhoods diverse and representative of the whole range of people who make up our communities, rather than create pockets of privilege and pockets of the poor.
The School Board resolution passed Oct. 9 was part of the search for a way to reduce the concentration of students from poor families in the two elementary schools in the Old North End where much of the city's low-cost housing is found.
Low-cost housing faces enough controversies that create barriers toward serving people in real need. Too many people see such housing simply as a government handout and a magnet for people who need expensive taxpayer-funded services. Brian Pine, the city's Community and Economic Development Office assistant director for housing, is right to worry that the School Board resolution might lead the City Council to slow down efforts to add subsidized units in the Old North End.
The city planning tools for creating a diverse neighborhood of households with varying income levels is the kind of policy initiative that has a better chance of succeeding -- if at all -- in new developments. Forced attempts to change the socio-economic makeup of an existing neighborhood in a mature city near full development, like Burlington, can be cost-prohibitive and disruptive.
There are solid economic reasons low-cost housing tends to be clustered in certain parts of a community, mainly cost. The tight housing market is putting the squeeze on even solidly middle-income families.
A policy that would create low-cost housing in existing higher-rent neighborhoods makes little sense. Creating a low-cost home in such a neighborhood would require a much greater subsidy than in some other areas of the city. Targeting areas with relatively cheaper housing costs allows those doing the necessary subsidizing -- often with taxpayer dollars -- to get the most for their money.
Also, few people living in a neighborhood of single-family homes are likely to welcome seeing apartments go up in their midst because such buildings would be out of character with what's already there.
For most people who have trouble finding a home they can afford -- different from a home they like that they can afford -- the chief issue is availability, not location. North Street resident Mary Davis put that concern succinctly when she told the Free Press, "It could be anywhere. Just get it to where people can actually afford to live in Burlington."
While the School Board's action might be well-intentioned, the vision behind the resolution is disturbingly utopian, creating a Burlington where each neighborhood reflects the broad diversity -- social, economic, cultural, racial and ethnic -- of the entire city. Solutions to real-world problems are rarely found in utopia.
Targeting areas with relatively cheaper housing costs allows those doing the necessary subsidizing -- often with taxpayer dollars -- to get the most for their money. What the Freeps is really saying: "those" people don't deserve the housing - not with our taxes!
The other message is: NOT IN WESTLAKE! The developers of that hotel and condo project at Battery and Cherry Streets had agreed to build units of affordable housing behind the development; they are petitioning the city now to renege on that agreement and put up commercial property in that space. And it's all related to the still undecided zoning rewrite which favours the rich cat developers' pockets. Contact your ward councilors, especially the immoral Prog and Republicans!
I have no clue what Councilors Shannon or Keogh plan in response to Ward 5 consituents. TONIGHT people in Ward 4/7 can get up and speak directly to the four city councilors those wards (Ellis, Wright, Decelles, Gutchell) at the 7pm NPA meeting. There will be the usual open forum and councilors report.... 7 pm, Hunt Middle School Library. Channel 17 will be there, so what is said tonight will air across the city within days. If you live in these wards, please be aware of this opportunity to speak up!
Related: Burlington Free Press article published 15 October 2007: Affordable housing: How much is too much?.