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.