For those of us with warm roofs over our heads and groceries on the table the problem of affordable housing does not often surface. But for low-income families, where half the income can disappear simply trying to keep the family sheltered in an acceptable home, the problem is a daily one. President of the BRIDGE Housing Corporation Donald Terner and columnist Brad Terner argue that affordable housing is a problem that should involve everyone. From your local supermarket clerk to your child’s science teacher, the problem of affordable housing can affect us all.
Terner presents the beginning of a solution to the affordable housing problem in his article Affordable Housing: An Impossible Dream? in The Commonwealth, published June 1994. His company founded from an anonymous $600,000 donation is a non-profit organization that builds quality, affordable housing for low-income families. Its effects, however, are limited. One project just opened in San Francisco with 3,000 applicants and 108 acceptances, which can be looked at as pretty dismal statistics. “This is just a drop in the bucket,” writes Terner, ‘the real question is how to expand and replicate.” (Terner, p. 392) It is this expansion that the bulk of the article argues for. Terner values a fair chance for all citizens at the “American Dream” and this chance involves the whole community. Terner mentions the “NIMBY” syndrome, or Not-In-My-Back-Yard Syndrome, where communities support the concept of affordable housing, but none that are to be built in their community. Ideally one could turn to the government for help with problems such as housing, but National, State, and local governments have proven themselves to be of little help. This is where the individual comes in.
Inman, too, argues in favor of individual involvement in his article Examining Real Estate’s Great Divide in The San Mateo County Times in September 1997. Inman focuses on the contrast between wealthy home buyers and average home buyers to motivate the public to act. Though no specific action is suggested as in Terner’s article, Inman’s argument inspires action because the implications of not having affordable housing are so clearly laid out. In addition to spouting out the statistic that 33% of the average income goes towards a house, Inman spells out the situation by concluding, “…for everyone [not rich], a basic house can be a serious economic drain.” (Inman, p. 7) Inman values proportional equality for American citizens as he points out the ludicrous gap between rich and not-rich home purchases.
The way I see it, the amount one spends on a home is already proportional to what one earns. Inman argues in favor of equality between rich and not-rich families, but I believe this opposes the American Dream of earning your fortune and home. Inman bases his argument around the envy the average American might feel upon hearing that some people can afford a three-room library in their home. But how often will you really find such a three-room library? Inman’s is an unrealistic comparison. Of course there are a few filthy rich individuals who can afford to buy and trade houses “like the rest of us buy shoes and socks.” (Inman, p. 7) This, however, is a biased simile on Inman’s part because I seriously doubt rich individuals deal with their houses (however many they own) so casually so as to trade their houses like people trade foot wear. Though the problem of affordable housing is a serious one, I find Inman’s attempt to lay out the situation over generalized and biased.
Terner, on the other hand, lays out the situation in terms of solving the problem. He argues with the intention of giving deeper understanding of the problem, and with motivating individuals to help and not ignore the problem within their own communities. Terner’s response to questions from the floor encourage support for his company by explaining what it is they can do, and what they cannot. For example, when confronted with the very small percentage of people whom BRIDGE actually makes a difference for, Terner explains that the risk involved in investing in his type of company, and why they don’t have all the funds needed for such a large venture.
What Terner’s company does have is support, and that’s all he is asking for. The affordable housing problem can affect us all through the economy and the general spirit of the American citizen. Both Terner and Inman point of that affordable housing affects us all. They argue that the solution stems from concern. Anyone who cares about the futture of America will show concern.