... But Who's Counting?

 At the housing summit at CBI last spring, an interesting method was used to assign attendants to different tables, the idea being to get Three Stooges as doctorspeople to start thinking in groups beyond their own. After each table was given the task of brainstorming how best to address the issue of lack of affordable housing, it reminded me of one of those countless hospital shows. Faced with a seemingly inexplicable problem, each specialist would come up with a treatment based upon their own area of their expertise.

A surgeon would operate. A radiologist orders a CAT scan and an MRI. An oncologist would test for cancer. And so forth.

Similar thinking happened here. People don't like to come out of their area of expertise, because, well, that's how they've chosen to make their living or otherwise define themselves.

As for the patient and their family, they put their trust in their general practitioner, whose head may be spinning from the myriad of approaches, some contradictory or mutually incompatible. And, like so many patients when faced with a systemic problem, we take half measures, or do nothing.

At the housing summit, it was clear how people started off: When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The housing authority has said solutions lie within federal and state restrictions and funding formulas, but those only cater to the poor, not the near-poor or middle class. Habitat for Humanity can only get people into home ownership if land is donated, which is a problem in an area where open space is very limited and expensive.

Bill Marsh, a developer, put the blame on zoning that made density the enemy, but has done more to raise the value of his real estate holdings by limiting supply. And the affordable housing committee, using the threat of further Chapter 40B end-runs around zoning, religiously sticks to the need to meet targets set by the state, which are admittedly arbitrary and more relevant to Chelsea and Haverhill than to Chatham and Harwich.

The main thrust is this: State statistics say we do not have enough housing affordable to the lowest 40 percent of income-earners state-wide.

 (read the rest of the column at The Cape Cod Chronicle here)

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