Let’s stop kidding ourselves

What’s the difference between Trump conservatism and Gainesville liberalism?

When he killed Obama-era fair housing rules Trump bragged that he did it so suburbanites won’t be “bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.”

But we Gainesville liberals aren’t comfortable demonizing the poor. So when we want to torpedo affordable housing we call it a sneaky plot to benefit greedy developers.

That certainly took care of GNV Rise, a modest proposal to incentivize lower cost housing construction in Gainesville that died in the face of nearly hysterical opposition from neighborhood associations.

That was in 2018, and virtually nothing has happened on the affordable housing front since.

But, listen, things are going to come to a head pretty quickly.

Call it the looming clash of the moratoria.

There’s a good chance the city will impose a development moratorium in an attempt to head off the spread of student housing into historic black neighborhoods like Fifth Avenue and Pleasant Street.

A time out period of, say, a year, would give the city time to engage in better neighborhood comprehensive planning, advocates say.

Maybe so. But another moratorium is going to be lifted a lot sooner than that – the stay on evictions of people who have lost their jobs to the coronavirus crisis and can no longer pay their rent.

When that happens, homelessness is going to explode, both locally and nationally.

And “people of color” will be “especially vulnerable,” to the coming eviction crisis, reports CNBC.

“We know evictions have always had a disproportionate impact on tenants of color due to discrimination and lack of wealth,” John Pollock, of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, told the network.

We’ve been talk, talk, talking about Gainesville’s affordable housing shortage for years.

And the fall of GNV rise is a textbook example of why Gainesville remains all talk and no action.

Essentially we expect our commissioners to achieve goals that, on their face, appear to be mutually exclusive.

1. Lower housing costs so that everybody can afford to live in Gainesville.

2. But protect existing residents from policies that, homeowners perceive, will hurt their property values.

You would think a progressive university city like ours would be up to solving that conundrum, right? But town-gowns can be just as obstinate when it comes to deciding who should be allowed to live where.

“My own city of Berkeley, renowned for its ‘progressive’ values and liberal politics…for 50 years…has suppressed new housing of all kinds and now has an almost unsolvable problem of affordability and homelessness.”

This from Dorothy Walker, founding president of the American Planning Association in an important Streetsblog essay.

“The fact is, local control over land-use decisions has obstructed efforts for racial justice and social equity in housing since the beginning of our profession,” she argues.

If you think a one-year time out will finally give Gainesville “equitable development,” you haven’t been paying attention. It’ll do no good unless we are willing to confront, and change, long entrenched zoning and land use restrictions that “perpetuate classism and racial segregation,” as Walker puts it.

Single family residential zoning, for instance, is the most rigidly enforced, and effective, instrument for segregation in American society.

Trump understands that, and he intends to use that ugly truth to his advantage.

We Gainesville liberals probably get it too. But…greedy developers.

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