Thursday, May 25, 2006

Habitat for Humanity and the Neighborhood

Recently the Alta Vista Neighborhood sent a protest letter to Habitat for Humanity concerning the process used to join with a developer at the last minute (just 2-3 hours before the commission hearing) and submit a plan that lacked any published notification, analysis or review by the city staff. Their letter part:

It was with great dismay and shock that we were notified at 12 noon this past Monday, April 24, that Mr. Ron Burks’ proposal that we had been studying since July of last year and vigorously defending against since December of 2005, had been dramatically changed due to a last-minute partnership formed between Habitat for Humanity and Mr. Burks’ Quincy Investments. First you have
to be aware of where we come from. We (all) have been made a victim of a STUNT! The dignity of the City Commission, City expert staff, the carefully crafted process put in place by past City Commissioners, the dignity of the City itself has been violated by this stunt . . . which you (unwittingly or not) were a party.

Second, we know where you were "coming from". We understand you were motivated, as we read in the latest issue of Habitat Magazine, by a Study program prepared on your behalf of housing models applicable for housing relief in high density urban environments. The Study focused on problems of the West Coast, not at densities as high as 50 families per acre, but you naturally were motivated when Mr. Burks offered you the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this late-breaking project.

Without one word or the slightest bit of outreach in consultation to our neighborhood as to why we have been so unanimously opposed to this development, Habitat jumped into the pond with Mr. Burks and proceeded to give more than half of the 15 minute presentation before the City Commission on the new project. From the 3 City Commissioners’ comments on why they voted for the proposal, it was glaringly clear that Habitat was the green seal of approval that carried the day. Beyond this, Mr. Jacobson’s depiction of our members’ 50 x 100’ lots as prehistoric in the "trolly age" and, by implication – "move over to make way for destiny!’ – is simply wrong and another example of the subtle cracks leveled at concerned neighbors.

Needless to say the Alta Vista Neighborhood, as well as many other city neighborhoods were shocked and dismayed at the speed with which this happened. By denying the public the opportunity to fairly review a major proposal (including denying the staff opportunity to review) sends a chilling message to the citizens of Sarasota.

Habitat for Humanity's mission and purpose can be viewed here. The Habitat for Humanity web site gives the following information:

Why Habitat for Humanity Is Needed

Millions of Americans face a housing crisis. In fact, 5.1 million American families have "worst-case" housing needs, forced to pay more than half their income for housing, endure overcrowded conditions and/or live in houses with severe physical deficiencies. While the number of families in poverty is growing, the number of affordable rental units is shrinking, and most families who qualify for government housing assistance aren't receiving any aid.

Worldwide, the need is even greater. Some 2 billion people worldwide live in poverty housing. More than 1 billion live in urban slums, and that figure is expected to double by 2030. Many of these people earn less than US$2 per day.

Housing problems have far-reaching consequences. The high cost of housing leaves low-income families little money for other basic necessities like food, clothing or health care. Substandard housing can endanger the health and safety of its occupants, erode their hope and self-worth, and impair their children's ability to succeed in school.

Habitat for Humanity is changing lives. Working in partnership with low-income families to build decent homes they can afford to buy, Habitat helps to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. By the end of 2005, more than 1 million people worldwide will live in decent, affordable Habitat for Humanity houses.

We are not sure how this mission connects with the Sarasota Habitat for Humanity Chapter decision to partner with a developer to build housing for families with income ranges of 60% to 120% of the Median Income for the Sarasota-Manatee area.

No comments: