Anyone who has attempted inner city housing development containing a mixed-income component understands how resistant existing neighborhoods can be when faced with such plans. The almost universal, knee-jerk reaction: opposition.
People worry about the affect of such changes on their property values. Working out of stereotypical understandings of "the poor," people also worry about public and personal safety.
While I've reached other conclusion and have other concerns, I think I understand the reaction. Or, at least I'm trying. For sure, complexity and anxiety attend the issues surrounding any urban development that adopts an inclusive housing strategy. This just always seems to be the case.
Developers, especially non-profit developers, face the formidable challenge of fully informing neighborhoods and community residents of their plans, while maintaining some level of privacy during the period of property assemblage so as not to drive prices higher than necessary. Even more essential, and at times more difficult, is the challenge of building real trust based on honesty and openness.
At best, the process and its challenges remain very difficult. And, the realities of real estate development complicate the entire process.
I confess that I am conflicted here.
I want to see these kinds of projects move forward. In my view, our city needs many more of them for our "under-housed" neighbors, especially among those who have no place to call "home."
At the same time as I say, I'm working personally to understand and to put myself in the shoes of those who resist mixed-income and affordable housing development. I'm thinking of my own street just here, the block on which I reside.
At one end of my street, just five dwellings away, sits a very ill-maintained, dilapidated apartment complex of about 20 units. Frankly, the building is an over-crowded wreck of a place. Several working families with lots of children occupy the facility. I am sure it is what they can afford. But, it needs serious modifications/improvements.
In my view the best solution would be to tear it down and start over. Problem is, thanks to the current zoning laws, anything built to replace it would have to be a single-family home or homes. Yes, the planned development rules at the end of my street cut against the interests of poor families. This is true in many areas of our city.
But, back to the property in question.
What about new development in the form of renovation? What would improve the situation short of simply eliminating it and the families who depend on the housing for their well-being? What would improve rather than erode area property values? What would make things more secure and livable for everyone?
Would a new facade be a plus or a minus? I'd say a real plus. A new look and fresh paint and entrance amenities often work wonders.
Would a new parking configuration with a plan for increased security be a plus or a minus? Next question.
Would a plan to reach out and include the residents in this building in the larger neighborhood be a positive or a negative?
Depends on who you talk to.
A few years back some of my neighbors wanted to close the street at the apartment house end to curtail the flow of thru traffic and to intentionally cut the unsightly building off from the rest of us. Still, I vote it would be a good move to reach out.
Would increased involvement by the owner/developer who'd put some new capital in the property be a plus or a minus? Certainly.
Clearly, whole the conversation hinges on how one regards real community and physical improvements when compared to staying with the status quo.
At times people choose the negative that they already know, rather than the proposed improvements about which they remain unconvinced or suspicious.
This brings us back to building trust among at least some of the stakeholders.
Some will never support such a redevelopment because it implies that low-income people would be encouraged to stay in the neighborhood. These folks support an agenda that removes the poor from their community.
But for others, I continue to believe there is an opportunity to convince them that housing development and re-development is a good move for everyone involved.
More to come. . .