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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What Constitutes Bad Return-On-Investment for Allied Drive?

When evaluating investments, we most often turn to numbers. In the case of the city-owned properties on Allied Drive, it would seem fairly simple to look at the amount of money that Madison’s taxpayers invested into the property, and then work the numbers out to ensure a fair return. However the City of Madison invested into Allied Drive not necessarily to crunch out a profit, but rather to invest in the people and the community. If stability in our community could be achieved, it would ripple out to affect some of the social ailments that plague our city, such as crime, homelessness, unemployment and poverty.

This is all great in principle, however within this process, it is often overlooked that lives are at stake. When our alder, Brian Solomon knocked on our door this weekend to encourage us to come out to another community meeting to voice our thoughts on the redevelopment, it got a little heated. Brian told us that as of a week ago, Phase 1 of the new development process was set to establish all 40 units as 100% Section 8. Now they are talking about 75%. The problem is that there are 30 families that live in the city properties that do not qualify for Section 8 (about 2 families out of 32 do qualify). So if only 10 of us can come back in Phase 1, where are the other 20 supposed to go?

Throughout this process, I have made efforts to remain actively involved and when asked for feedback I have offered it. I have taken personal time to visit with various city people to talk, I have spent time repeatedly offering the fact that I do not qualify for Section 8, and neither do many of my neighbors. When I am told that Phase 1 is likely to be 100% Section 8 just weeks before Phase 1’s redevelopment plan is etched in stone, it sounds like no one ever listened to me, or my neighbors.

The city has been challenged with settling at a solution for the newly acquired properties on Allied Drive in an effort to achieve this goal of stabilizing the Allied Drive community. Within their effort, they hold public meetings where those within the community can freely offer feedback and very often, the need for more Section 8 housing is cited. However who is coming to these meetings and who is raising their voice to guide the redevelopment movement? It is very rare within all these public meetings that I have seen any of my city-property resident neighbors. I have further witnessed some very disturbing methods of manipulating the open meeting process to advance agendas and it all boils down to this: things are not always what they seem. In my conversations with confused or frustrated neighbors, I have encouraged them to write letters to officials and committees that guide the redevelopment process, since many of them are simply unable (or at times unwilling) to come out to public meetings. I thought maybe that would help guide the process. One of my neighbors went the distance to do so … unfortunately, her words also seemed to fall on deaf ears.

It is important to make the distinction between those of us who are really currently living on Allied Drive as leaseholders, and those of us who are living here because of being temporarily taken in by friends and family due to some life circumstance. It seems like if the actual leaseholders in the community are driven away, the goal to achieve stability in our community will be futile. Many of us in the city properties have lived here for 5 years, 10 years and 25 years. That sounds somewhat stable to me, and if those households are driven out of the neighborhood through the Section 8 filter, is the city really achieving its goal?

On top of that, I know that I will have challenges finding a place to live outside of where I am at, if I am asked to move this year. I have some major obstacles that relate to my credit and my background that served as the prime reason Allied Drive became my home. My years on Allied Drive have been tough. My household has had two eviction proceedings in the last year that we successfully combated, but will a new landlord look over the fact that we allowed our rent to back up over $5000 due to extenuating circumstances and consider that we paid that off in 90 days to offset the evictions? If we are displaced, I honestly do not know where to find a landlord that will consider my income without considering my background, my rental payment history or my credit. Two years ago, Allied Drive was the only solution I was able to find after living in a hotel for two months. I am not looking forward to going back to living in a hotel.

I have a puppy to think about. When I look at the investment of faith I am making with the city that there will be a solution for my household within this mess, I am not sure if my investments are sound. I think that the city could potentially put me out through this Section 8 filter, granted I will likely have 60-90 days notice, but sometimes it seems like making an effort to find another place to live in another area of the city and eliminating that unknown in my life would make things a little more stable for me and my household. Who knows, maybe when I am an outsider looking in at the whole Allied Drive mess, I’ll join the rest of Madison in thinking that mass Section 8 is the best solution.


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....

Stu Levitan said...

In setting the goals for affordability, the CDA was merely following the direction given by the Allied Area Task Force itself. And the only way to reach those goals -- which in some instances were practically the income levels for public housing -- was the aggressive use of Sec. 8 vouchers. If we had not followed those income guidelines that the Task Force wanted, we would have been criticized for gentrifying the neighborhood. But now we're critcized for having TOO MUCH low income housing! And Ald.Konkel still voted against the project because there wasn't ENOUGH low income housing!

Seriously -- what were we supposed to do?

Stu Levitan
Chair, CDA

Mary Kirkendoll said...

I have an innate fondness for Allied Drive and its residents.

It is the place in which my life's passion crystallized before me--working with child, youth and families to become empowered in order to determine their own destinies.

I have enjoyed reading your blog immensely and I wish to encourage you to be bold in your advocacy for yourself as well as your neighbors!

The City will do what the City wants to do…but your destiny lies with you! Reaching out through this blog will help you express yourself and even when it seems that no one is paying attention...they are.

Do not let others stomp out your desire to be helpful toward others as you lift yourself. It is this sort of love for others that sets you apart.

I'll share with you one of my favorite quotes below.

Excellent Job... please remain encouraged!

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind any way.

If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the end…

It is between you and God. It never was between you and them anyway.
--Mother Theresa