Monday, May 19, 2008

Unacceptable

With regard to the redevelopment of public housing in our neighborhood, the City and ARHA have now dropped the other shoe.

At last Thursday's Braddock East Advisory Group Meeting, consultants "casually" mentioned the possibility that there would be no more public housing units dispersed from this community beside the 60 already slated to leave with the redevelopment of the James Bland project. The veil of secrecy has now been pierced and the City's political agenda is out in the open. Keep it all here is the mantra.

At last Tuesday's ARHA/Council work session, the Growler also learned that the City is going to try to load the Bland project with "workforce" housing.

Yes, the City plans to spend housing trust funds from developer contributions — not for land to deconcentrate more public housing from the Braddock East area, but to subsidize some of the units in the multi-family buildings at Bland, which housing analysts have now determined will be affordable at 100% of median income.

FYI, HUD has determined that in our area median income is just a hair under $100,000 for a family of four.

The hope is to make some of those units affordable at 80 or 90% of median income. Let's not forget that City employees will have first dibs on these units.

The Growler's reaction?

Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Unacceptable.

It now appears clear that the only reason that any public housing units are being dispersed from Bland to Glebe Park is because ARHA and EYA needed to squeeze additional market rate units on the more valuable land at Bland to make the financials for the dual-project renovation work.

None of this has anything to do with the City's Fair Share policy or its commitment to public housing deconcentration. The overarching goal is to keep it all here — in fact to perpetuate the ghettoization of this neighborhood. The removal of units was a decision forced by economics, not by a progressive social policy borne out by decades of research on the importance of deconcentrating dysfunctional public housing that is toxic for low-income families and children.

This sheds some new and interesting light on the Braddock Road Metro small area plan. It now appears the goal all along has not been to deconcentrate public housing by distributing it more evenly across the city, but to "dilute" it by packing in more development and thus avoid tough political and financial decisions.

Perhaps that's why we suddenly saw well-known housing advocates like Nancy Carson showing up at the final Council hearing on the plan, talking about the Metro as a public (not neighborhood) asset. Those who were present will remember that Ms. Carson introduced herself as a resident of "one of the least diverse neighborhoods in Alexandria," i.e., Rosemont. Since she said nothing about housing, it was a curious fact to bring up if she was there to talk about the Metro as a regional asset. Was her real agenda to keep a foot on the neck of our neighborhood?

And what about the arguments of Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth? Has the concept of smart growth been put in the service of the City not for economic reasons but to justify our Democratic Council perpetuating the economic and racial segregation of years gone by?

We'll look at this issue in more detail tomorrow. And this week we'll also look at the impact on Jefferson-Houston School. Through these measures that concentrate poverty, are the Mayor and Council every bit as complicit as the School Board in perpetuating a separate but unequal school system for the disadvantaged in our supposedly progressive City?