Earlier this week, Seminole County Commissioners decided to move forward with a project in Oviedo that would, in part, include affordable housing (story HERE), there was outrage from local residents for reasons that we already knew would be a challenge for affordable housing in Orlando (story HERE).
But there was also a disturbing philosophy that came front and center during the meeting.
“Unfortunately I think some people look at affordable housing and assume it to mean only poor people” states a quote from the article.
That’s exactly it.
Local leaders have tied the idea of affordable housing solely to being a solution for people that are homeless or nearly homeless. This wasn’t done intentionally, it’s just unfortunate use of the terminology being used together so frequently has caused this to occur.
We’ve brought affordable housing to the forefront of the conversation of challenges facing the area, but have anchored it as a negative term to our community. It scare residents and it scares potential businesses that want to relocate.
“I don’t want to be near affordable housing. People who have just been pulled off of the street will be living there.”
They probably won’t say that before a county commission, but that’s what they’ll be saying in their heads when they oppose any efforts for affordable housing in their neighborhoods.
So, what do we do? How do we convince existing resident that “affordable housing” isn’t code for poor people housing.
Let’s do a better job defining exactly what the parameters of affordable housing are. This should fall in part, to our elected leaders and “task force” members (in applicable areas), getting out to these perspective communities and changing minds.
This campaign shouldn’t just consist of slideshows in front of cameras but active efforts to change the minds of people who show up to protest at these meetings.
These people are scared because they don’t have the facts. That’s a messaging failure on our part. Let’s show them the numbers and the kinds of people that will be living in these communities. They might discover that the median income of one of these households demonstrates a working class family or individual that is caught in that affordable housing gap.
Tell them that occupations like police officers, teachers, and social workers currently fall into the group that are estimated to be using too much of their income on housing and could benefit from projects like these.
I don’t know about you, but more police cars parked in my neighborhood at night would make me feel much safer.
The Seminole County Commission took a bold step this week, but in turn took a step back in the eyes of public opinion because we’re not doing a good enough job educating the public on what real affordable housing is.
That has to change.