Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In the middle of our street...

I don't really want to gripe about this story on affordable housing in Town Center from today's Sun. It's generally pretty good and includes a ton of quotes from one of the VPs at my organization. But it does have a few flaws (the first sentence, for instance).

Rather than nitpick, however, I want to make a general point about affordable housing in Columbia. The story mentions that the "obstacle" of "public resistance" to affordable housing doesn't exist in our city because of our shared values. Indeed, I would say two of the Founding Four Principles – "a complete city" and "a garden for growing people" – are directly related to the idea of a full spectrum of housing.

So, it's pretty important, or should be anyway.

But I think there's a critical divide among us that doesn't come through in the piece. On one side you have Sherman Howell, who "has said that without the density now proposed, it is misleading to suggest the county can make an appreciable addition to the housing stock for low- and middle-income families."

On the other you have groups like the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown, which is described as having "demanded that the final master plan for the area include housing for moderate- and low-income families."

The groups could best be described as affordable housing advocates and Columbia-values advocates.

Howell sees an opportunity in Town Center to make "an appreciable" difference in the county's housing imbalance while adhering to the shared values of the community, and CCD sees affordable housing in Town Center as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to our founding principles while providing housing for poor people.

Not so different on paper, but significantly so in practice.

Also, by the way, there is considerable public resistance to affordable housing in Columbia. Such sacrilege is generally not spoken of in public, however.

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