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Warehousing the poor is a bad idea

Posted: December 4, 2011 - 12:00am

Columbia County commissioners in the past year or so have done an admirable job of recognizing the burden large-scale rental developments can inflict on taxpayer services.

An often-extended moratorium halted new apartment rezonings while county officials rewrote the rule book, setting tougher standards that make it less profitable – and thereby less appealing – to build new apartment complexes.

That will have real, long-term benefits for Columbia County. Why in the world, then, would commissioners, in the midst of studious review of apartment zonings, hastily sign off on a resolution favoring “affordable housing” for Columbia County?

Let’s face it: “Affordable housing” is bureaucratic code-language for “low rent,” and there’s a good reason the phrase “low-rent district” is a slur.

What’s especially maddening about the Magnolia Trace development is that, with the complicity of Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs, Affordable Equity Partners plans to build as many as 50 homes in the middle of an older Martinez neighborhood to create a low-rent district.

Residents of the neighborhood are justifiably alarmed at the prospect of a mass number of rent-subsidized houses being built in their midst. Sure, there’s plenty of not-in-my-back-yard opposition, and the property owner clearly has a right to build anything permissible on land.

And oddly enough, the residents have been using code-language of their own, perhaps not realizing the power it strips from their argument: They keep referring to the project as “Section 8.”

That federal program provides mobility to low-income residents by giving them a rent subsidy to find their own place to live in the community, thereby dispersing “housing projects” that warehouse the poor and concentrate their problems into a smaller area.

There seems to be tremendous wisdom in that approach – yet here is a state agency encouraging a developer to pack low-income residents in the middle of an existing neighborhood.

What an awful idea.

Unfortunately, the horse is so far out of the barn on this particular idea that the neighbors’ venting won’t likely stop it. Certainly, it seems a stretch to persuade the DCA to call a halt when the project meets an agency goal of putting more “affordable housing” in an “affluent” area.

That doesn’t mean commissioners, who alternate between defending the program and claiming they weren’t entirely aware of how their supportive resolution later would be used, should be let off the hook. Only three current commissioners were there for the vote on that resolution; all five now likewise should unite to ask the DCA to reconsider.

It might be an empty exercise, but at this point it’s the least they can do.

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Comments (4)

Little Lamb

Is anyone coming to the meeting?

I don't know. At first we heard rumblings that dozens if not a hundred or more residents were planning on attending Tuesday's meeting at the government complex. Now, there appears to be a silence, a cooling off, a resignation setting in. Sadly, the fire is gone. Well, don't you think that the county government should at least have a back-up plan to hold the meeting in a room much larger than the regular meeting room? Do the commissioners relish the notion of dozens of citizens standing outside the meeting room in the parking lot? Why not change the meeting location to Savannah Rapids Pavilion? How about Abilene Baptist Church? How about Mosaic Methodist Church?

Austin Rhodes

What they need to be TOLD...

The ship may have sailed on THIS project...but let the Commission learn once and for all that residents want NO LOCALLY SANCTIONED warehousing of the poor in Columbia County.


Little Lamb

Cold, Cold Heart

The community fire on this issue has gone out and the ashes are cold, cold, cold. The commissioners are in the clear if fewer than 300 neighbors show up on Tuesday night.


Spring Lakes Trey

Spring Lakes Trey sits on the DCA an in the unlikely event he would display some courage and fight, this could potentially be stopped. Cross, as County Commissioner, could also be a strong voice. Yet these 2 - who conventietntly live nowhere near the project - have thrown the county, it's school system and law enformcement under the bus.

Had Allen and Cross just come out an admit they were duped most of us would have believed that, and would have forgiven them. Instead their arrogance or even worse, their total lack of judgement believing this project really is good for the county, have put them in the crosshairs of what is overwhelming agreement this is a bad idea, a REALLY bad idea.

Cross's long term legacy will most likely be the downturn of a great school system and increased crime because of the projects he as supported over the years to attract the kinds of residents everyone else in the country is running from.

This is far from the first case where this has happened. Just look at all the undesirable apartment complexes that have been built on his watch and their negative effect on school quality and crime.

And when it came time to stand by an outstanding institution - Augusta Prep - the commissioners overuled their own planning commission.

The bottom line is a clear sign for change in county leadership.