This post was written by Sonya Hochevar, based on her remarks at the Ward 3 Housing Town Hall, November 22, 2013.
I have lived and worked in Ward 3 for about 8 years and am now also the Tenant Association President for my building as we go through the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process.
I work for Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), a not for profit housing developer that preserves, renovates, and owns housing for low- and moderate- income households in addition to providing Resident Services. The Housing Production Trust Fund, which the Housing For All Campaign is fighting to sustain and increase, is a crucial tool that allows us to do our work in DC.
But tonight I want to talk with you from my perspective as a Ward 3 resident and address the question that some people asked when this event was planned: Why would you do an affordable housing Town Hall in Ward 3?
We’ve all heard the phrase “It takes a Village to raise a child.” Well really, it takes a village to do everything that’s makes a community successful. Yes, it takes the doctors and lawyers, businesspeople and investors, but it also takes:
- the staff who clean our doctors’ and lawyers’ offices each night
- the baristas making our coffee in the morning
- the caretakers of our children and our elders and people living with disabilities
- the servers, dishwashers and line cooks at our neighborhood restaurants, fast food joints, and school cafeterias
- cashiers, bank tellers, administrative assistants
- bus drivers, security guards, and firefighters
- teachers, nurses and EMTs
- the construction crews who work on our roads and buildings
- retirees on fixed incomes and veterans
You get the picture, and the list goes on…
So I really want us to think about that village. Our village. And what it means when we have people on all parts of the income spectrum who have and are contributing to the growth and success of the village but a majority of whom cannot actually afford to live in the village or take advantage of the resources that they’re helping to provide.
This reality just doesn’t make sense from a lot of angles. It doesn’t make logical sense, it doesn’t make moral sense, and it doesn’t make sense for business owners who have a workforce that spends so much of their free time and money on transportation and are stressed due to their housing situation.
It also doesn’t make sense for decreasing poverty. In addition to residents in particularly low-paying jobs, we’re talking about our brothers and sisters who are homeless or are not working and need housing assistance to get on their feet. For instance, returning citizens who come out of prison will tell you about the sentence they serve in jail, and then the extended sentence that society deals them when they get out, as they are denied housing, jobs and other resources.
Finally, unattainable housing in the village doesn’t makes political sense. We keep hearing our politicians talk about one city, an inclusive city. So if being an excluding and segregating city–by income, ethnicity, or race–is not actually our goal, then we should not be implying that it is with our status quo.
This village approach obviously applies to DC as a whole, but I want us to really think critically about Ward 3, and how we create a range of affordable opportunities right here where there are currently slim to none. The idea that Ward 3 is a “lost-cause” or altogether exempt from even a discussion about housing affordability is unacceptable. Our village needs to bury the “Not in my backyard” (NIMBY) mentality. And this involves changing attitudes and stereotypes, which is something each of us can be a part of. Not only will our children, and our village as a whole, be better for it—our very survival and success depends on it!