Liberal, Wealthy Communities Respond to Low-Income Housing in their Neighborhoods

Photo by the LA Times
Photo by the LA Times

Remember when we wrote about George Lucas’ attempt at creating affordable housing in Marin County? Well, here’s a recap!

Marin County is the wealthiest county in California. North of San Francisco, residents of Marin County have touted themselves as liberal -minded and environmentally conscious. (They even own four times the national average of hybrid cars!)  However, the extension of their liberal ideologies regarding affordable housing in their community is limited.

The affordable housing stock in Marin County is dismal. According to the Los Angeles Times, the median home price is $650,000. Unable to pay such high mortgages, 60 percent of people who work in Marin County live outside of the area. In addition, Marin County has the most undeveloped government-controlled land of any county in the Bay Area, which limits the opportunity for providing housing to low-income residents.

In an attempt to change this reality (and piss off his neighbors), George Lucas has been working in conjunction with the Marin Community Foundation to develop more affordable housing. Initially, Lucas bought a plot of land in Marin County with the intention of creating a movie studio. However, the land was zoned for residential use and the residents of Marin wouldn’t allow him to change the land into commercial land.  Displeased with his neighbors’ rigidity, he has been retaliating by pushing for an affordable housing development in that space.

Now, Marin County residents feel even more unsatisfied with Lucas’ plan.  At a recent planning commission hearing, Marin County residents acknowledged the importance of affordable housing, but were reluctant to bring such a development into their neighborhood. Outraged, folks that work in Marin County have started organizing against residents that disapprove Lucas’ development project. At a protest following one of the planning commission hearings, workers and allies came together in solidarity wearing pins that stated, “End Apartheid in Marin County.” The low-income workers that would benefit from affordable housing are employed by the very Marin residents that disapprove of the development. This circumstance clearly illustrates how NIMBY attitudes and class relations play out in wealthy communities, like Marin.

Similar trends have occurred in Brooklyn. The residents of recently gentrified Carroll Gardens are generally considered liberal-minded and aware of social justice issues. However, their response to a letter from the city demonstrates otherwise, again, in regards to housing concerns. In October of 2012, the NY Times reported that residents were informed that the city was building a homeless shelter nearby to accommodate the ever increasing problem of homelessness (and lack of affordable housing). Most Carroll Gardens’ residents responded with disapproval:

To jam 170 homeless men into this neighborhood is a numbskull idea,” said Buddy Scotto, head of the Carroll Gardens Association. “I didn’t spend my whole life helping make Carroll Gardens a decent place to let somebody do a dumb idea like this.

Partaking in social change efforts is often predicted on comfort, convenience, and personal benefit. For many, enacting social change is easier and more comfortable when one is engaged at a distance.   When brought in close proximity to injustice, folks are forced to confront and reconcile their own prejudices and privilege. Therefore, when the “other” enters their backyards, most residents are compelled to resist.  This, of course, only further marginalizes specific populations (homeless, low-income), and reinforces social structures.

To truly dismantle oppressive structures and enact social change, residents of both Marin County and Carroll Gardens (and other wealthy, “liberal” communities) must align their ideologies with their actions. We stand in solidarity with low-income workers and homeless folk that are fighting for active inclusivity and recognized humanity in more affluent neighborhoods.


One thought on “Liberal, Wealthy Communities Respond to Low-Income Housing in their Neighborhoods

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s