Opinion

Durham doesn’t need a bond to increase affordable housing

I remember my first apartment when I began my career out of college. I was able to pay my rent and utilities and was happy to call it home. However, I wanted more.

Living within my means, paying my bills on time and understanding that some wants need to go to the wayside, I was eventually able to purchase a home in southwest Durham in 1996 before my wife and I got married. It was a joint effort between my wife and I.

There are citizens in Durham that have problems finding affordable housing. My heart goes out to them. Every hardworking citizen deserves a place to call home. Our most vulnerable citizens often have been marginalized and have seen their housing options diminished.

Many of our City Council members and Mayor Steve say that providing low-income housing in the form of renovations to Section 8 dwellings or housing projects ameliorates the situations. It does not. Our Durham residents want more. Yes, they want a place to stay but they want a place to call home — something that is theirs. Providing more low-income housing will not fix the problem; improving the financial lives of these residents will. Maintaining the “security” that low-income housing provides keeps some of these vulnerable citizens in subjugation and perpetual reliance on government.

I cannot vote for the bond. How the funds will be used is every changing. Out of the 15,000 estimated residents that will be assisted with this proposed bond, roughly 400 will get help in purchasing a home. 400! My biggest beef with increasing the number of low-income units is that the low rents (on average around $250/month) don’t motivate some residents to want more. It creates complacency and comfort.

Low-income housing should not be a permanent solution but a temporary one. How many of us have relatives in Durham or elsewhere who grew up in low-income housing and has remained in it for a lifetime? Even worse, how many have seen children in these homes follow the same path?

I am not insensitive to the plight of low wage earners but this is America and Americans have the ability to overcome. All Americans can overcome with hard work, determination and faith.

We need to get our council members to reduce planning regulations to allow developers to create “tiny” homes and other innovative dwellings that people can afford. Gentrification is not a dirty word but some of the areas that have been renovated can also be used for this endeavor. The city and county of Durham have a lot of land that can be zoned and maybe even rezoned for this. Our Durham residents want options that cost less than the $200,000 $300,000 and $400,000 homes that are springing up around Durham.

Voting against the bond doesn’t mean you are against providing housing options. I see often that government can be a stumbling block in its attempt to advance homeownership. The Affordable Housing Bond will add $37 in taxes per year to a $200,000 home for the next 20 years. 20 years!

Do your own research, and then vote.

Terry McCann is a Durham public school teacher.
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