The members of the New Albany Housing Authority Board have a big decision to make at their upcoming meeting on Monday, April 23rd. The proposed plan spearheaded by Mayor Gahan would effectively demolish nearly half of the affordable housing units in New Albany in the hopes that low income housing becomes less centralized. I am against this proposal and I am writing in the hopes that not only the Housing Authority and city officials see this, but also to help my fellow New Albanians become more aware of the growing crisis in our city called poverty.
I think most people will agree that the centralization of low income housing has negative effects on those living in those units for a few different reasons. The biggest reason is that around the nation, pockets of poverty and low income housing is placed right in the middle of food deserts (places where there are not many options to buy food. Most options are fast food). I acknowledge this flaw and I support the idea of ending the centralization of poverty, however the plan put forth forces low income individuals with little hope and fewer options to up and leave their homes with effectively no place to go.
Our city government simply has not done enough to prevent the traps of poverty from engulfing many of our low income neighbors throughout the city. To put it bluntly, our city government has not prioritized the prevention of poverty. But our issue is not a culture issue, I know this because of the people I meet and see everyday around town. New Albanians are the best people in the country. Our problem is how we tackle the issue of preventing poverty. Some of our elected officials would rather tear down these affordable housing units because we have done our fair share as a city of housing low income individuals for Southern Indiana and Louisville. Instead of this sentiment, we need to empower our low income and poverty stricken neighbors and help them regain their footing and be able to rise above their standards. They cannot do this without a strong community and city government behind them helping them.
So in contrast to the proposal being put to a vote at the New Albany Housing Authority, I suggest some alternatives that the city can be doing to help not only improve the standard of living for individuals but also end the cycle of poverty by taking a two-generation modeled approach that helps both adults in low income situations and children.
- Having a stronger investment in local education. Many people may not realize this, but Indiana is one of the only states in the country that puts the cost of supplies and textbooks onto the local school districts. One thing our city can do is invest in our children’s education by creating a city-wide voucher program for those most in need to cover books and supplies for our school children. This would take the pressure off of families who are deciding on buying food or school supplies.
- Job training partnerships. This program would cost little money and would allow the city to partner with local businesses in our community to provide those most in need with proper training for jobs so that low income families can gain important skills that will allow them to enter a higher level of the workforce and begin to support their families as well as transition out of HUD housing.
- Contracts for local businesses. New Albany is blessed to have an explosion of development in industry and entertainment. The city should be utilizing our local businesses for contracts as opposed to companies in other states. This would allow our local businesses to expand and offer employment to those benefitting from the Job Training Partnership program.
- Realizing our assets. Our low income neighbors deserve to be able to live acomfortable life and not worry about being able to put food on the table consistently for their kids. Just because their economic situation is not the same as others does not mean they are not assets to our community. Anyone can be an enormous asset to a community if they are only given a chance. We need to start realizing our assets and give them a chance.
I hope that my suggestions are ample counter proposals and that the Housing Authority Board as well as our elected city officials will take a hard look at what I have outlined here. I also am extending my helping hand to any city official who would like to meet with me and discuss what can be done at a city level to end the cycle of poverty and help our low income neighbors.