Monday, July 29, 2019

Searching for Home

I’ve been mulling over this article for a while now.

Rent in this quirky N.J. town is unbelievably cheap — but there’s a catch , Cassidy Grom for

A little place that time forgot, which the decades cannot improve. Owned by the residents. Rented back to themselves at amazingly low rates. The waiting list to get in is 25 years long, and residents sometimes pass on homes to relatives.

At first the thought of this quirky little place appealed to me. The more I think about it, though, the more it feels really creepy. The opportunity to have this small but comfortable and affordable housing is controlled by the residents themselves. That could be a good thing. It could also be insular and exclusionary.

What do you think?

I raise this issue today because I’m looking forward to the upcoming episode of the Elevate Maryland podcast. Their guest will be Howard County Housing Commissioner Peter Engel. The Housing Commission’s watchwords are: quality, inclusive, affordable. That sounds very much like what those folks in New Jersey have got in their little low-rent utopia. Do we have anything in Howard County that comes close?

Here is the Mission and Vision of the Howard County Housing Commission:

The mission of the Howard County Housing Commission is to provide safe, quality, affordable, and sustainable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families who live or work in Howard County and to assist them in moving toward economic independence. The Commission will pursue this mission through open, efficient, innovative, and accountable processes.
In pursuing our mission, we apply these six guiding principals:

1.  Affordable housing should be integrated with market rate housing and not concentrated or isolated.

2.  Affordable housing should compare favorably to housing in the community.

3.  Affordable housing should be environmentally friendly.

4.  Affordable housing should be universally designed.

5.  Affordable housing should be self-sufficient.

6. Affordable housing programs should help to move participants toward economic self-sufficiency.

People deserve the opportunity to have decent housing they can afford which is near where they work. For many people that means rental housing. We’ve placed such a high value on home ownership in our culture to the point where renters are seen as suspect, transient, and even detrimental to the overall life of a community. We don’t have to think this way. When we choose to perpetuate this stereotype it lets us off the hook for creating solutions for people who are less affluent than we are.

One of the topics that is sure to come up on Tuesday evening (Common Kitchen, 6-8 pm) is the 2018 Rental Survey.  I’m looking forward to learning what Howard County’s actual housing needs are and what we as a community can do to address them. We seem to spend an awful lot of time in Howard County protesting housing meant for somebody else. I’d like to learn more about what residents really need. 

Interested? Go to the event page and let them know you’re coming.


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