In a famous scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (James Stewart) gives the curmudgeon Potter a verbal drubbing about decent housing for the “people who live here and do most of the working, buying, living and dying” in Bedford Falls. You probably remember it well.
Bailey captures my feelings on the subject of affordable housing. It’s in the best interest of everyone in the community—merchants, government, businesses, restaurants, etc—to work toward affordable housing for the various socioeconomic groups within our city. This kind of diversity makes for better citizens, customers, and neighbors. It makes our city stronger economically and a safer place to live. All people tend to live better lives when they are living in their “home” (bought or rented).
Here are my thoughts on this challenge.
First, I am opposed to “government housing.” By that I mean “the projects” such as we see in Chicago and New York. Government built, government run. These efforts have changed nothing and only helped create a permanent underclass and hotbeds of crime and gang activity. This is not something government is good at.
Second, I do believe that government has a role to play. Specifically, I believe that our city government can and should (and we do) partner with organizations that already focus on housing. Habitat for Humanity, for example, enables lower income earners to buy nice houses through community and church involvement in the building of the house. I’ve participated in that program before and found it to be tremendously impactful for all. Another worthy organization is the Hendersonville Housing Authority, a federally funded provider of affordable apartments, Section 8 management, and rent assistance to those in need. It makes more sense to work in alliance with these experienced organizations than to start a new, separate program.
Third, just recently, Jim Lapsley of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners was asked to help lead a Leadership Forum think tank to address this issue. He and his peers from around the state will likely be coming up with a practical, research based set of non-partisan solutions and ideas. I intend to be as close to this effort as possible to learn of best practices in affordable housing.
I’d sure like to know what you think on this vital issue. Please add your comments below!