|Dexter Asylum in 1824 in Providence RI. An early "Poor House"|
The Best Laid Plans Part III: Affordable Housingby Bob Silvestri
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~ George Santayana
When I was growing up in New York City, where my family owned a small business, my father told me that the scariest words in the English language were, “We're from the government and we're here to help you." A lot of people feel that way about ABAG housing quotas and affordable housing projects in general. But it’s more complicated than that.
Reasonable people might agree that having a variety of housing opportunities for those most in need, without discrimination, is a worthy societal goal. But there’s a difference between “providing housing opportunities” and “building affordable housing.” And affordable housing means different things to different people in different places. It includes homeless shelters, starter homes, rental apartments and townhouses, live/work lofts, SRO (single room occupancy) housing, elderly housing and assisted living, housing for very low and low income (below 30 percent to 50 percent median) and 80 percent median income “affordable” units like the ones we see being built all over Marin (for a family in Mill Valley earning about $90,000 per year).
So where should we focus our efforts and how do we define and prioritize our needs? Some history of how we got here helps.
The Best Laid Plans Part III: Affordable Housing