The challenges around affordable, workforce and senior housing housing are both moral and marketing. They’re moral, because we know that we are responsible for providing affordable places to live for our workers, our children and our elders and we’re just flat out not doing that. It’s a marketing challenge because the term Affordable Housing is a lightning rod. For many people, it brings out bias against the “have-nots”: poor whites and people of color. It’s a racial thing that cannot be denied or ignored.
We go to the polls every two or four years and elect the women and men willing to serve, who impress us with their campaign promises. Recently, many have been talking about affordable housing and pledging to take steps to create more of it. These fine people stand up and say “we want to make our communities a better place to live.” They run for office. We elect them. Then we go back to watching Netflix and hanging them out to dry, while all the angry NIMBY’s (Not In My BackYard’ers) and CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) go to meetings and take out their anger. They snarl at our elected officials. The lie and insult our leaders. They threaten them with their votes (or lack of).
They cry crocodile tears about the “little Latina kids in danger” because the motel they’re staying in doesn’t meet fire and safety codes, while suing the town for not throwing them out in the street because they don’t want them attending their schools. They spread their racist fear by suggesting that “one of those people in that affordable housing “project” is going to crawl over the fence (like some animal) and swim in my pool!”
Some NIMBYs scream about water quality and poisoning their grandchildren, then go home and flush their toilet into the old septic system out by the pond. Save the whales/turtles/piping plovers brings a lot of people out!
Town board meetings where we are passing legislation banning plastic straws is like watching an episode of Love Boat. Will banning plastic straws help your daughter find an affordable house? I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be banning plastic straws! No, I think we should! But I believe we should have as much enthusiasm and joy at advocating for affordable housing as we do for banning plastic straws, or even more so! The Piping Plover is protected. Are we protected?
Family homes are going to the highest bidder and becoming luxury retreats or airBnB rentals. Housing has become a game in our community. Investors are collectors of homes — one single investor has been party to purchase of over a dozen homes in Sag Harbor in the last year. Those homes are being rented to the highest bidder or flipped or renovated or torn down so a new “luxury” home can be built and sold for a profit. Why not? It’s America! But who’s building the $250,000 to $400,000 starter homes for our young families? Not happening.
We’re out of whack, people. Greed has gotten the better of us and we don’t take care of our own anymore. And before 2008 — before the Great Recession —many people felt rich. And we were 11 years younger — many were getting good returns on their nest eggs, and the only people that needed “affordable housing” were “those people” — and you know what? “Those people” still need affordable housing, but so do so many more. So do our children. So do our parents.
Research has shown that those who are housing-challenged, food-challenged and underemployed live with a scarcity mentality that is frustrating, stressful and depleting. When we are stressed, we tend to drink more alcohol, eat less healthful foods and have higher medical bills.
But let’s not talk about Universal Health Care…let’s keep this to housing.
In late March or early April, East End YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) and PEER NextGen Housing Collaborative will be holding an “Affordable Housing Advocacy Training,” designed to educate us about the reasons we are now in this pickle, and how to mobilize out of it. Info about this seminar will be posted on our East End YIMBY Facebook page. I hope you will attend and take home the knowledge and empowerment we need to get out of this mess. It’s THE PEOPLE who will generate the power to get us back to balance.
BE A YIMBY!!
Michael Daly is an East Ender and regular contributor to The Beacon on community issues he cares passionately about. He can be reached at 631.525.6000 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org