It’s like 2021 all over again

I was going to wax poetic about a crisp, sunny Thursday morning at the Thomas Center when a brand new mayor and brand new city commission spoke of the exciting challenges that lay ahead…

…and vowed to confront some of GNV’s persistent problems: Traffic deaths, gun violence…and of course affordable housing.

Ah, but this is GNV, where we like to take two steps back before venturing one cautious step forward.

And so before we can get about the business of moving GNV into 2023 we must first return to the good old…um, exclusionary…days of 2021.

Newly elected District 3 Commissioner Casey Willits knew what he was talking about when he spoke of GNV’s invisible people. “Sixty percent of us rent our homes,” he said. But in 2022, when the commission voted to eliminate exclusionary zoning “property owners took center stage…making the renters voice very small.” Renters were told ‘Somewhere else, please, somewhere else…’”

GNV, Willits said, “can’t be just for some of us…The well employed or the well educated or the well propertied or the well pensioned or the well aged. We can’t have large portions, even the majority, be continuously forced to shrink themselves down until they disappear.”

Au contraire.

Before we can make the city safe for affordable housing we must first make GNV neighborhoods safe against the scourge of duplexes, triplexes and quadroplexes….aka affordable housing.

The swearing in speeches were barely over before the commission began the process of restoring single-family zoning in Gainesville. The vehement objections of homeowners to lifting zoning restrictions that have kept our neighborhoods racially and economically segregated for generations must of course be accepted as the will of the majority.

This because their howls and protests in 2022 drowned out the voices of renters, the homeless, affordable housing advocates and social justice champions.

But wait! Newly sworn in Mayor Harvey Ward did promise to take advantage of a “once in several generations partnership with the federal government…to invest in affordable housing.”

I wonder if anyone told the mayor, about the $85 million in federal grants available for the “identification and removal of barriers to affordable housing production and preservation.”

“The ‘Yes In My Backyard’ grants are designed to help counter ‘NIMBY’ or ‘Not in My Backyard’ opposition to allowing a broader range of housing in neighborhoods around the country.” This per an article in the on-line Route Fifty.

“The move is the latest attempt during the Biden administration to encourage the end of ‘exclusionary zoning’ that the president’s economic advisors have said ‘discriminated against Black families.’”

I guess that issue didn’t come up during Ward’s recent chat with President Biden.

In erasing the excesses of the previous commission, it is interesting that the new commission decided that Priority No. 1 is to restore exclusionary zoning and not, say,…oh, I dunno…reversing the outlandish pay raises that the former commission gifted to the current commission.

Priorities I guess.

But never mind. Once they finish erasing the affordable housing gains of 2022 (seriously, does GNV really need ADUs?) I’m sure the commission will do something to help renters and other low income GNV residents find a decent place to live in 2023. Maybe land a nice federal grant to build something…somewhere.

Assuming that the county commission doesn’t decide that we’ve already built too many something’s at whatever somewhere is decided upon.

It’s the GNV way: One step forward, two steps back.

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