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Monday, December 17, 2007

Allied Drive Community Meeting Unveils New Plans, What?

The big meeting that took place this weekend to obtain resident feedback on the path of development for the Allied Drive city properties where I live was brought to my attention by my alder, Brian Solomon. I have to say, Brian made a very genuine effort to get the word out. I received a voice mail, a flier taped to my door, and I saw fliers plastered all over the apartment complex in which I live. When Sunday rolled around, I was thinking, damn, it’s Sunday! I have to work tomorrow, I still have laundry to do, I need to make a grocery list, the apartment’s a mess, my puppy feels neglected. But Brian said this was an important meeting. They all are.

There was a decent turnout. All the familiar activists were there. And some new faces. There was also one other city property resident whom I recognized that showed up. It may not have been the town meeting that many were hoping for, but until it is realized that city people speak a different language than us residents, participation will remain where it is.

First of all, we are not trained to read schematics so for some, the diagrams are all just a bunch of shapes. Many community residents at the meeting still thought that the diagrams reflected all of Allied Drive and did not understand that this new development will only impact nine properties. Even when it is all explained to us, we will still harbor on details that may not really impact the overall design because we are not trained in urban planning so we do not really know exactly what to ask. On top of that, nearly half of the city property residents do not speak English as their first language and some need interpreters to even communicate at these meetings. It’s kind of like when someone asks, “How are you?” What can you say? Uh - fine?

In these situations, maybe we have to rely on experts to do what experts do. When it comes down to someone talking about schematics, I get a little impatient. I guess I can afford to trust the experts because if the end result does not fit what I said I wanted a year ago at the community design meeting, I can afford to shop elsewhere for shelter. Many of my neighbors can also afford to shop elsewhere and that is likely why they do not feel the need to give up a Sunday afternoon to hear city people talk about plans. Most of us have faith that the city leaders will come up with a good solution based on the information they have acquired from us. There are some people who live in the 10th district that are next-to-homeless and need a place to live that is affordable and will accommodate a lack of income and they voice their concerns at all these meetings, however I am not sure if this specific Allied Drive redevelopment project of these nine particular buildings is supposed to solve poverty, homelessness, unemployment and underemployment. Until it is understood what the Allied Drive redevelopment project is to achieve, I think that the confusion and communication lapses will persist.

Some people raised concerns about the affordability of the units. However the residents who currently live in the city-owned apartments were not the ones to raise that question. It’s a logical question that would come up if you were asking the world what they think. I wish this place would hold a public meeting for the entire City of Madison to attend and express their concerns about redevelopment. I’d be the first one to say my concern is that I don’t make the income to live here. I bet that if I consume the entire meeting with my questions about affordability, the actual residents that pay rent there would get a little irritated and after a while they will likely stop coming out to the meetings because their questions and concerns are not being addressed. That is precisely why I left the meeting early. I understand the city strives for a solution that will please everyone, so naturally, their job is to listen. They are definitely doing a wonderful job of keeping their ears open. Now that we have a listening ear, the line to express concerns is growing so long because our community as a whole has a lot of concerns to express. However when it comes to this specific redevelopment project for these nine buildings on Allied Drive, our meetings are filled with people who simply do not live here.

The question asked over and over again was "How much will the rent be?" We talk about displacement and we talk about all these programs that would allow residents to remain here, and ideas come forth at these meetings asking the city to consider 100% Section 8 housing in the new development. I know that my household would not qualify for Section 8 because my household income is too high. Would that mean that I would have to move out? My next-door neighbor has made clear to the city that she would not qualify for Section 8. Would she have to move also? My upstairs neighbor would also not qualify, and neither would my neighbors on the second floor, and my friends over in the 2345 building also would not qualify because their incomes would be too high for Section 8. Would they also have to move out? That sounds like displacement to me.

I raised a question at the meeting in the midst of an argument between some community members and Mark Olinger over whether the new development could be 100% Section 8 or just 80% or 70%? There are 32 households remaining in the city properties. "How many of them are Section 8 recipients?" I asked. Mark indicated it was something like 2, maybe 3. That is less than 10%.

The properties that the city acquired are probably among the nicest apartments on Allied Drive, which I know does not say a whole lot, but I know that the criteria to get into these buildings included an income requirement of three times the rent. Rent here is between $550 and $725. Do the math. Our households can afford a mortgage for a first home if we had some help. One of the households in the city properties is paying for two apartments to accommodate their family. I know from sitting on the CDBG Commission that the City of Madison has some great programs for first time homeowners and there are a lot of people in these buildings that would make great candidates for such assistance. Within that prospective, I think that the city properties striving for at least 50% owner-occupied units may help move our community forward (and not out) if the assistance to obtain one of those units is connected to us residents.

It really pisses me off when people talk for me, and many of my neighbors share that sentiment. I live here in the city property so ask me what I can afford and ask me what I want. Ask my neighbors what they can afford. Ask them directly what they want. Don’t rely on an organization or a survey to speak for us and then interpret that turning Allied Drive into projects is the solution. There are only 32 of us left, how hard could that be? There used to be 80 of us, and more and more residents are leaving the city properties, and they are not all moving into substandard conditions. They are moving into better areas of the city into nice properties. If we had comparable properties out here, maybe some of us would not move out of this neighborhood and maybe we could help provide the stability that the city is looking for in this community.

I would be interested in an owner occupied unit that has 3 to 4 bedrooms (with a basement?), and I would like down payment assistance and some counseling to help me with challenges with my credit. If I do not get that here, I will get it elsewhere and that would mean that I will not stay in this community. I do not want to live in the projects.

That’s all I have to say about the meeting this weekend (at least for now!). I’m not going to write about how some Fitchburg residents are so impassioned about fighting the concept of streets opening up Allied Drive into the surrounding neighborhoods. That’s all for another day, but I will say that the Berlin Wall comes to mind.


Em Jay said...

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Well, your site is interesting, and I do invite you to sneak in at my blog as well if you have time. I tend to write concise - sort and sweet - so hopefully it wont take much of anyone's time :-)

Take care, Cheers & Enjoy!


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resident said...

I talked with Alder Solomon today, about the "revitalization" of Allied Drive, and the oddest most oddest words came out of his mouth and has been in the hearts and minds and mouths of everyone who has had a say so far. Why are the words odd, because he knocked on my door which is located in the City owned property and told me that there has been discussion of a majority of the newly created living spaces would be section eight. Ha! Section 8, and the number is out of forty-five possible units only "10" would not be section 8. Now I must say this is ODD, BECAUSE THERE ARE THIRTY FAMILIES LEFT IN THE CITY OWNED BUILDING AND OUT OF THE THIRTY, ZERO, ZERO, ZERO, ZERO, ZIP ZERO NONE DE NADA ZILCH QUALIFY FOR SECTION 8.....NOW GO FIGURE THE CITY CARES ABOUT RESIDENTS WHO DON'T EXIST AND ARE BY THIS TYPE OF PLANNING PUTTING OUT RESIDENTS WHO HAVE BEEN HERE WANT TO BE HERE, AND WILL MOSTLY BE UNABLE TO GET LIVING SPACE ANYWHERE ELSE, OR WHY ELSE ARE THEY HERE...ODD, VERY ODD...Put working class individuals out and move in, if you can find them...Section 8 tenants, I say if Cause there is already Prairie Crossing and Several other apartment living spaces with Section 8 Vouchers that have not been fulfilled, or is that the plan have vacancies by means of providing a service which can not be used, brilliant, yet still Odd...Eat !@!# All those who didn't give a damn about people who work for a living, Who have been struggling and paying rent here already, and who will actually be out with no help, cause no one helps the in between...Eat !@# or do it right, Provide for those who you electively displaced, by your unrequested purchase and then save the poor and needy....

Webmaster said...

I didnt know about this, can someone fill me in!