I was at the Bernie 2020 rally in Springfield on Friday evening (a week ago) and it was an enlightening experience. My wife and her family were all over the event volunteering; which was the only way I was able to get in. The main arena of the MassMutual Center was occupied by the AHL Thunderbirds and so the event was limited to 4-5 thousand people. When I made my way down a half an hour before the rally the convention center exhibition hall was already filled to capacity and the line still stretched, literally, all around the building and was obligated to snake its way up and down Court Street.
(I removed my Tulsi 2020 pin when I was given entrance to the “Invited Guests” area.)
I was disappointed that, apart from some references to the military-industrial complex, Senator Sanders never once even mention the 5…6…is it 7 wars the military is now fighting? I’m still voting for Tulsi on Super Tuesday. From an urbanist standpoint ending the War on Drugs, rebuilding our infrastructure, better funding poorer school districts, and affordable housing were the major elements of his entertaining and impassioned speech.
In 2016 Springfield went heavily for Hillary in the Democratic primary. Yes, the former Goldwater Republican crushed the candidate who actually marched for civil rights; such are machine politics. Springfield was chosen for the non-Boston Massachusetts rally site in part, I’m sure, to reach out to Black and Hispanic voters; there weren’t too many people of color in the audience however.( “Joe 30330” took Springfield this time around. “What do we want? Nothing! When do we want it? When it’s convenient for the donor class!”)
For me what always makes the cheers (and there were thunderous ovations) for tackling the homeless crisis and for building “10 million units of affordable housing” somewhat irritating is that almost none of the people cheering live in places that the poor could even begin to find affordable:
I applauded, but I did add not completely inaudibly: “Yeah, no worries, none of it will go anywhere near where ‘you’ live!” Of course, I’m not against affordable housing either, I’m surrounded by it and, if one takes the term more literally than intended, I live in it: <$30 a square foot. As I’ve expressed before, I don’t think we’d do the poor any favors by randomly plopping “affordable housing” in suburban areas with no public transit, no walkable access to food or services and, even if they could access them, products which have been bid up in price by their wealthy neighbors. (Corollary: a really smart, wealthy suburban friend of mine buys all his furniture at the Raymour and Flanagan in Springfield in order to pay less!)
I still find the enthusiasm hypocritical, much like the claims of disgust with our “Divided America” made by the granola-crunching left living above the Tofu Curtain, where their demands for social justice can be made at a safe distance from the actual struggle. “Create affordable housing, but not near my enclave.”
Yes, I presume to know this because these people could live near the poor now if they wanted to, with all that entails, but they choose not to.
I have no idea if there is a solution to the problem of affordable housing but while we’re outspending the rest of the planet on armaments I’m not listening to claims that “we can’t afford” to build affordable housing. (Even if it’s by attaching 18 “worker housing” units to a $50 million market rate housing development on Court Square.)
I don’t think there are actual solutions to many socio-economic problems; there are only rational responses. If there is a problem it is the idea that there is “a solution”. The poor have trouble affording housing for the same reason they have trouble affording everything; not being able to afford things is what being poor means. Beyond that each of us make choices and trade-offs in order to afford what we can afford; as individuals we sacrifice on this in order to afford that, and at a societal level we have to decide what, if anything, we are willing to forego in order that others might have expanded affordability options. All of the options have consequences; it’s not hard to see how today section 8 rental guarantees and subsidies push up rents on those who don’t receive subsidies but who are still far from well-off. Giving renters “more rights” protects a vulnerable class of people but makes potential landlords…like me…reluctant to put units on the market: I have a perfectly good one bedroom apartment in my townhouse which sits empty because I don’t need the money badly enough to either do the hard work to avoid, or to deal with, a potential nightmare tenant. I know I’d be more likely to rent my space for less money if I thought I could have an easy time booting someone that wasn’t working out. I’m not saying that’s right morally or ethically; it’s just a fact.
I could see it going for $650 a month all utilities included. Maybe even $450. That’s fairly affordable.
I almost never hear the affordability question put in a Springfield context though, it’s usually looked at from a San Francisco or Cambridge perspective. They are so different that I can’t imagine the best response in each case would be identical…
(That is where last week’s post ended. I generally like to wrap up my essays with some sort of coherent message. My mind is elsewhere, there is a great deal more to contemplate regarding affordable housing for Springfield but for a relatively wealthy metro area housing costs are actually very low here but as I wrote weeks and weeks ago, events are in control now and there are other things to focus on.)