Tenant "Speak Out" Tuesday
I received notice today that there will be a meeting with some public officials tomorrow of people in need of and who advocate for low-income housing:
The Greater Newark Housing Preservation Partners will host “The People’s Housing Speak Out” at Grace Episcopal Church, 950 Broad St., between Newark City Hall and the Federal Building, on June 30, 2009 from 6:00 to 8:30 PM. The Speak Out will spotlight the ongoing loss of low-income housing units in Newark and explore viable measures to create housing opportunities before an influential panel of leaders and policymakers.
In recent years, 1772 private-owned government subsidized apartments have been demolished and 888 public housing units are slated to be demolished. Three segments of testimony will detail the current portrait of housing: Landscape of Need, Impact on People, and Possible Action Steps. Advocates, organizers, tenant leaders, and families and individuals on waiting lists will describe the loss of low-income units, through their own experience as well as facts and numerical figures. Speakers will also present the options that are currently available and upcoming to preserve affordable homes. An “open mic” session will be held after testimony to facilitate the participation of the public at the forum.
The panel of experts who will listen to these presentations will make brief remarks afterwards. Confirmed panelists include: Cornell Brooks - Director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, Rev. Bruce Davidson - Director of the NJ Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry, Newark Councilman Charles Bell, Newark Councilman and Director of the Department of Citizen Services of Essex County Anibal Ramos, Newark Council President Mildred Crump, State Senator Teresa Ruiz, and a representative from the office of Senator Frank Lautenberg.Many of the demolished housing units really did have to go, for having crumbled into unfitness and for having isolated the poor in islands dominated by the culture of poverty. Much of what has taken their place, low-rise, scatter-site housing and market-rate townhouses and two- or three-family apartments, has been a big improvement. But have we built as much as we have demolished?
The Greater Newark Housing Preservation Partners is a coalition of housing advocates and organizations in Newark, NJ.
I hadn't thought about this issue, inasmuch as I own my own house and have been aware that, as compared to many other nearby places, Newark already is pretty affordable. See, for instance, this partial screenprint at the "SAVE $$$" area of the Richardson Lofts website.
Of course, those are luxe digs, at premium prices. As to how the cost of non-luxe housing in Newark compares to other municipalities, and to the ability of low-income Newarkers to pay, I do not know. I have read that some poorer Newarkers have moved across the city line into East Orange and Irvington in recent years, which is unfair to all three municipalities as well as to the poor who feel forced to move.
Altho in New Jersey the bulk of legally mandated "affordable housing" is built in cities like Newark, largely because the population it is intended to serve does not want to live in the suburbs — not just because suburbs would rather not have them, tho there is surely some of that too — there may well not be enuf affordable housing for current needs. The current Decession doesn't help poor people pay market rate, even if the recession has depressed some rents (and I'm not sure it has).
To the extent Newark's economy depends upon workers who can accept low wages in service industries and "incubator" small manufacturing operations, and on people who patronize the low-end retail operations that presently dominate Downtown, we are going to have to make it easy for people in lower socioeconomic strata to live comfortably in a city that is not nearly so diverse as we would like it to be. We are certainly not Vail, Colorado, nor any of the other chichi towns that can't get anyone to work in fast-food restaurants because the people who would take such jobs can't afford to live anywhere near them. But we have to balance the needs of new Newarkers who find Newark cheap, against the needs of old Newarkers who fear that rising housing prices will drive them out of town.