Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Can we get that "affordable" housing with a side of JOBS?

First posted 11/21/13

The blog has been on fire lately! :) Commentors are weighing in on both sides of the issue and regardless of their feelings or position I am just really glad that people are talking! Seriously, I am so glad people are feeling engaged (or enraged) enough to talk about Ward 8. That can NEVER be a bad thing.

That being said I want to set something straight here. When I say "affordable" you will notice I always put that in quotes. I do that because "affordable" always means something different to everyone. For some people it means "low-income housing", for other it means  it means "work-force housing" and for another group that means "Section 8" housing and for another group that means something else. We all think it means something different. Besides that what is deemed "affordable" means something different depending on where you live. What is "affordable" in Georgetown I am sure is not "affordable" in Congress Heights -- it is all relative.  I read somewhere that the average selling price of a DC single family home is $800,000. That is crazy! I can't even wrap my mind around that. Revitalization should not come at the cost of pricing people out systematically. That is a shame.  But what is more absurd is that you can cross the Anacostia river and in some areas over here it is like the land that time forgot.  Our housing values are low (our most expensive home for sale in 20032 is $500k less than DC's average). We have ONE grocery store for 73,000 people. DC's unemployment rate is somewhere around 8% and in Ward 8 it is closer to 25%.

Where is the balance here?

We have an entire section of DC's population east of the river that is economically shut out of DC's prosperity. That is what makes me cry at night. I don't see plans to address that. It's not just that I want another grocery store in my neighborhood for the sake of convenience. I want another grocery store in my neighborhood that can hire the residents IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD so that they can have a job. I want Ward 8 residents to finally enjoy some of this "revitalization" that is coming to DC. Most importantly,  I want Ward 8 residents to have a job so that way if they want to buy a home in Ward 8 they can do it now. I want them to do that so they can stay -- regardless of how high home prices rise. If our residents remain renters I don't know what is going to happen to them in five or ten years. That really scares me. I don't see real efforts underway to empower the people here now to stay through homeownership. It's like "homeownership" is a dirty word. (I said it today and you would have though I promoted the killing of kittens) If there was ever a time to buy in Ward 8 it is now while there are so many vacancies and the housing prices are low, extremely low.  Why we keep building more rental housing without addressing the homeownership problem is not really solving the problem long term. We are setting people up for failure --- and a moving truck.

The best way to preserve "affordability" is through homeownership and I want the people here who want it to have a way to get it. I want them to have an opportunity to grow some personal wealth HERE so that when revitalization finally does come to Ward 8 (and lord knows when that will be) that they are the players in the game -- not the pawns. Someone told me today (which I already knew) that 70,000 people on the waiting list for Housing Choice Vouchers. That is terrible. What is more terrible is  I don't know what the plan is to get those people off of vouchers and into their own home -- that they can keep. The answer isn't more vouchers. The answer is jobs that pay enough for people to be self sufficient.  I want residents to be able to live and shop and eat right here in ward 8. I want them to be able to invest their dollars here in our community -- not take them to the other side of the river like we have to do now.  That is not helping the unemployment situation here. It is making it worse.

Let the cuteness of the baby panda calm you down enough
to listen to what I am actually saying.
So for my readers who are "disappointed" in my stance about bringing more "affordable" housing to Ward 8 let me tell you this. I am not against "affordable" housing in DC -- I just don't understand the push to concentrate most of these units in Ward 8 where prices are already really low.  What I want to see is a plan -- and some funding-- to bring some jobs, some healthy food options, some educational resources, and some retail and amenities to Ward 8 along with that "affordable" housing initiative.  I want to see "affordable" housing come in hand with some economic development, with some J-O-B-S. I've said it once and I will say it again, "DC's affordable housing problem is not about solving the unemployment crisis in Ward 8."

I want to see some money -- BIG money ---  being invested right here in Ward 8 in neighborhoods like Congress Heights to turn these vacant commercial spaces into businesses that can tackle this high unemployment rate. All the job training in the world isn't going to make a bit of difference if there are aren't any jobs here for our people to go to.

I want the teens who hang out on the corner to have a place to get a summer job. I want the woman I see taking a taxi to and from our lone grocery store to have some healthy food options within walking distance. And most importantly, I want the kids who walk to school everyday to pass a book store and not just a liquor store.

This feeling by some (including comments here)  that "Ward 8 should be happy with anything we get" is just crazy to me so if I respond un-advoc8te like that is why. I don't understand this self hate.  This feeling that poor people, that poor, unemployed people should be happy with whatever scraps we can get is horrible --- and stupid. (there I said it)

Ward 8 is a great place to live and the people here are some of the nicest you can meet. If you are looking for a place to live, with beautiful homes you can afford TO BUY it is here. The green spaces here are a great reason to move here. You have some of the most amazing views. Now you will have to drive west of the river for almost everything you need to live here but Ward 8 is still a great place to be. :)

I just wish the rest of the city saw that and saw the value in investing here responsibly now. All the "affordable" housing in the world is not going to tackle the unemployment problem if businesses and stores don't want to open here. I wish with those low-income housing tax credits that seem to be given out like candy over here, someone would include some development and employment credits.

All I (and it sounds like a lot of my neighbors) are asking for is a balance.

And if that makes you mad. Oh well, I tried. :)

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for saying what you are saying. Keep saying it and saying loud. As a future Ward 8 resident, I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

I agree! Please keep it up!

The Advoc8te said...

One of the most troubling moments I have experienced in my time in Ward 8 are young men in my neighborhood -- who see me going to work every day -- asking me for job leads and I have nothing to tell them. I know where to send them in Ward 8 for job training but I don't know where to send them in Ward 8 to actually get a job in Ward 8.

I would like to see some "announcements" about jobs in Ward 8 -- not just housing.

I would like to see the same type of speed and cooperation that went into putting the DC United Stadium deal together so quickly to be used to open some businesses in Ward 8 that can hire a significant number of Ward 8 residents.

Where there is a will I know there is a way.

Anonymous said...

"I would like to see the same type of speed and cooperation that went into putting the DC United Stadium deal together so quickly to be used to open some businesses in Ward 8 that can hire a significant number of Ward 8 residents."