No affordable housing sends youth packing

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2007

In an April 6 letter to the editor, Gordon Jackson points out the irony of developing a 7.5-acre piece of flat, dry land near public transit for storage units instead of housing. In a written response a week later, developer Bruce Griggs responds and states that many of the neighbors he talked to are "glad this land is not going to become a high-density, low-cost housing project."

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Are those neighbors concerned with keeping other people living anywhere in this town? Businesses and city government alike are talking about the need to attract and retain young, qualified employees. I fit that description, and I'm also low income. In fact, almost everyone under 30 is in the same boat as I am, because we're new to the work force. And we can't afford to buy a home here or even hardly rent an apartment without extra roommates. If Bruce's neighbors don't want us moving in near them, that's almost the same as saying they don't need us in Juneau at all.

If any of those neighbors own businesses, they might want to take note: We get the message, and we're starting to move away. If we can't live near you, and can't afford to live elsewhere in town, then we can't work for you either.

But there's no reason to stop there. Why are young low-income professionals any more deserving of housing than a single parent and his or her children? Or a minimum-wage earning household trying to save to buy a home? Or a woman fleeing a violent relationship? Are these all the types of people that neighbors don't want in "low-cost" housing? If we listen to every not-in-my-backyard concern of individual neighborhoods, the effect on Juneau overall will mean no homes for the people who need them.

When it comes to affordable housing, there's still a disconnect between what people are saying and their actions. Businesses need to work harder to advocate for affordable housing. City government needs to stand up and commit to more housing when decisions really get made. And developers need to realize they have a responsibility to the community, too.

Eve Southworth


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