Heredia: NIMBY attitudes crowd out people in need of housing
I'm a junior at Pacific and a Grover of over 20 years. The past few weeks, I've been learning about housing issues and how we can solve them. As someone who'll eventually be in the market for a place to call home, I wanted to bring to attention to a concerning topic that came up: NIMBY-ism.
"NIMBY, noun, not in my backyard: used to express opposition by local citizens to the locating in their neighborhood of a civic project … (that is) considered unsightly, dangerous, or likely to lead to decreased property values" (Dictionary.com). This is especially applicable to affordable housing (AH). NIMBYs would likely oppose rezoning, transitional housing units and multifamily housing units.
NIMBYs may be trying to "protect" their neighborhoods, believing that the otherness of "those people" who need affordable housing will so negatively impact their lives. This couldn't be further from the truth. "Those people" who need affordable housing in Forest Grove and any other city are the ones really needed for healthy communities.
Affordable housing is considered any residence where the monthly rent is no greater than 30 percent of the tenant's take-home income. Every county has an area median income (AMI), which is a comparison of all a county's household incomes. For Grovers, a four-person household's AMI is $81,400 per yr ($2,035 per month rent). A minimum-wage worker with 40-hour workweeks can affordably spend $576 per month on rent. If you look up low-cost housing, you'd be lucky to find a studio that was $800 per month and in the area. I encourage readers to calculate their own limit and compare it to their rent.
Statistics can help make a point, but what does this mean? Why should you care? Because the people that need assistance in housing are no different than you or me — your teachers, firefighters, EMTs, police, secretaries, farmers, electricians, postmen, dental hygienists, cooks and many more. They provide daily services that many take for granted, but life would be made harder or dangerous without them. People that benefit from affordable housing units aren't just people with poor attitudes that work in fast food, lazy couch-hoppers, drug users, dropouts and criminals. They're for single parents, college students, people with disabilities, the elderly, veterans and anybody that wants to have money to retire.
Having a stable home — a roof and four walls where you can build a family — is a quickly fleeting dream after the 2008 recession. It's a privilege to have the money saved up for first and last month's rent, a downpayment, and any other fees in addition to food, bills, and other general living expenses. When you have someone living paycheck-to-paycheck, needing to drive in from Portland, or putting them in a position where they have to choose rent or dinner adds an unnecessary amount of stress to their life.
I'd like to foster discussion about what kind of impact on our communities we'd have if homeowners and other renters were more accepting of these hard-working people. NIMBY-ism tells our future neighbors, "I value my assets more than your right to a home," which sounds really problematic and unneighborly to me.
Forest Grove is one of the tightest-knit communities in Washington County. I think it's time we started better supporting each other's futures and our own diversity.
Darcy Heredia is a student at Pacific University. She lives in Forest Grove.
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