On August 20th the Economic Justice Committee met and discussed the issue of affordable housing in Winchester.
Geoff Smith explained to members that the $ 50 million to be spent on this project was in fact a fine on the County for misstating and misrepresenting it’s submissions to the Government. The fine if levied would amount to over $ 200 million. This was a rectification for non compliance in the past.
It became quite clear as the discussion went on that the political will was missing in the County and except for the following no one was in compliance:
It also became clear that creating affordable housing as defined would only help the middle class as the people who would qualify are those already earning $ 65,000 a year. There was therefore no plan for the really poor or the lower middle class.
The Committee decided that it wanted to spend it’s resources on the problems of the poorer class.
It became clear also to the Committee that all programs for housing were dominated by the Real Estate Industry and nothing moved unless they got their pound of flesh. The system as it existed could not resolve the housing problems of the poor. It would therefore be necessary to launch a program outside the System and yet using the resources of the system.
After much discussion a program was initiated which would focus on identifying land or unused property which could be earmarked for the development of housing for the poor. Wespac Economic Justice Committee would act as a resource to help the Communities go forward with acquiring their own land and building their own properties.
The following 5 action steps were to be taken.
- Jalal Sabur volunteered to enroll for a course with the Housing Resource Center which trained people in land use and how to become familiar with the laws relating to land and housing. He would also build up a network of developers, Government functionaries and other players in the field.
- A committee consisting of Jalal Sabur, Geoff Smith and Lynn Beauville would report back on steps which needed to be taken. They would mobilize the community and identify people willing to work on this project. A not for profit developer or developers would be identified who would work on this project. A discussion to take place with Asian Americans for equality.
- A candidate to be identified who would be willing to get certification or is already certified with HUD in Counseling and anti eviction work. Increasing eviction is likely to increase homelessness.
- It was also agreed to identify a church or churches as partners in this work as Churches are already owners of properties and have invested in low cost housing work. Currently churches know that they are underutilizing their properties.
- Finally we would start working with the County Executive and his staff to see what help can be provided by his office..
It was proposed that this initiative be called, " Give me the land and I will build." A date for the next meeting would be announced soon.