Sunday, February 24, 2008

Affordable Housing and Me

My condo, which I purchased in 2006, is the first home I have ever purchased. I rented throughout my career, mostly because I never stayed in any city for very long. When I bought my condo I specifically went looking for property that I could afford in retirement. My income will drop by about a third in a short time, and I am budgeting accordingly. One of the attractions of Rogers Park was that I could afford it on my pension. Compared to the cost of condos nearer to the Loop, Rogers Park was a great value. I wouldn't have to move to the suburbs and search for a rail stop or buy a car to travel about, and I could have a nice home with character, not a featureless box.

In my association we have three families with children. One child is 3, one is 4 or so, and the last is a newborn. The parents are not looking to move, they very much want to stay here. Whether or not they stay, however, will be driven by the quality of the schools. I may wind up with new neighbors in due time, I don't know. In any case, about 3 of us are new owners, relatively speaking, the rest have been around a while. No one is looking to 'flip' property. We are in for the long haul. We are not transients. We own our units, and a piece of the larger association (with the risks and responsibilities) as well.

I mention this because I just read a few blog articles and comments about affordable housing in Rogers Park. One woman's affordable is another woman's luxury dwelling I suppose. I certainly don't see my property as luxurious. If it was I wouldn't be trying to renovate the seriously outdated kitchen and bath. That said, it is dry, warm, and mostly vermin free. I am not a transient and I take exception to generalizations that attempt to classify me, and others like me, as somehow not interested in staying and growing the neighborhood based on our marital, income and/or social status. A diverse neighborhood has room for folks across income and social dimensions. Anything else is at risk of becoming a ghetto, whether it is filled with poverty or filled with wealth.

Homogeneity may spawn a sense of security, but it denies us the necessary interaction to see others who are different from us as being fully human. Human history, no matter or distant or recent, is filled with efforts to exert power over and against the 'other' who is usually seen as less than fully human because they fail to share characteristics with those in power or seeking access to resources. Thus they are only worthy of subjugation, not interaction as equals.

Affordable housing is seen as one way of maintaining the heterogeneity (thus diversity) of the community. However, the issues about rules, regulations, taxes and the imposition of the will of others (even when well intentioned) on the unwilling, have to be addressed. Government authority that is allowed to roam unchecked and unmanaged, subject only to the will of those in power at the moment, cannot achieve the results we seek. It will require a shared vision of mutual interests and a willingness to act in mutual cooperation before we can hope to solve the problem of safe, affordable housing. Government can help but it should not be the leader in solving the problem. We, as a community, must decide what matters to us and then agree on how best to reach the goal. Government, at any level, should be the facilitator, not the leader or manager of the effort.

Name calling and stereotyping is counterproductive. Let's try to keep a reasonable perspective as we debate this issue. Poverty is not a hallmark of a criminal nature or intent. Wealth is not a hallmark of selfishness or insensitivity to the community. We need each other, let's not forget that.


Craig Gernhardt said...

> "I mention this because I just read a few blog articles and comments about affordable housing in Rogers Park. "

You should acknowledge what blogs and comments are your source?

Kheris said...

If I was going to quote anyone I certainly would have. I didn't. There was so much said by so many..........

Toni said...

Pagan uses the outdated, tried and untrue method of divisiveness. I listened to a director of a NFP tell a group of low income neighbors that 'those white condo owners want to drive them out of their homes'. Of course, she finally slipped up and mentioned her rising assessments. The audience wasn't as dumb as she assumed. The NFP hypocrite was a condo owner herself!

Apparently, they haven't come up with an intelligent concept to approach people with so they revert to this high school mentality. But then again, so do our esteemed, allegedly intelligent politicians.

Jocelyn said...

You are quite right that Pagan's comments do nothing to bring sympathy to her cause. A neighborhood needs to meet the needs of ALL residents and diversity means all different socio-economic and racial groups.

One gets the impression too many times that to some "diversity" means a majority of poor people of color. Any white people threaten the "diversity."

What makes these people any different from white people who don't want people of color moving in? Not much! It's all selfish ignorant and fear-based behavior.

But that's just the problem. What we need are solutions and less rhetoric.