Monday, February 05, 2007

Affordable Housing

My little town is approaching a big anniversary of its founding, and the government and other groups are planning lots of “improvements” to benefit the tourists who will visit us during the anniversary year. While I’m sure that these improvements will continue to benefit the tourism trade, something my partner said struck home. What if we used that money to make our town the first town with truly affordable housing?

One of the projects for the anniversary is building a walkway along the waterfront from the Sheraton Hotel to a city park – about a mile of walkway that will run for some length past the projects, as in past housing built many years ago for poor black people and not kept up but still occupied by those who cannot afford safe and decent housing. It’s a run down cluster of two story dwellings where elderly people and single mothers and teenage girls who are pregnant but kicked out of their homes and drug addicts live in chaotic mess and constant noise. And, I understand they plan to tear this particular “project” down.

Where will these people go? Are we planning new housing for the elderly and families? Are we kicking the drug addicts out on the street, where they will cause more problems? Who is an advocate for the residents of this place? I’ve seen other places here where undoubtedly the bathtubs are falling through the floors and roaches scramble over the floors. What will we do when visitors ask (although they won’t): Where do your poor people live? How great is the divide between the haves and have nots?

There’s money in this town; it’s a favorite place for retirees (and I’m a retiree, too). New development housing begins at $180,000 for condos. I tried to hire a landscaper to do some work at our place and was told that the earliest they might get to me would be June – six months away at the time. And, there was no assurance they would take the job even then. So, there’s money, and it’s being spent on expensive homes and landscaping. It’s being spent on scenic walkways.

Where do battered women go when their time is up in the shelter? No decent homes can be found to rent for less than $800 a month – and that’s only if you catch it in the wintertime. I have no idea about trying to rent a house in the summer. Most families receiving government assistance or disability can’t afford that house even with help from Section 8. Apartment complexes are for the upper middle class. I drove around town looking for decent apartments that might be affordable – not to be found.

I’m really not putting down the effort to spruce up the town for its anniversary, but, wouldn’t it be nice if we put equally as much effort into creating affordable, decent housing for our citizens?

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