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GNV R.I.S.E. a ruse beneffiting developers

Special to the Sun: “GNV R.I.S.E” a ruse benefitting developers
Robert Mounts, Gainesville

It is disheartening that the City Commission, and the Gainesville Sun, are attempting to control the narrative, making it all about "affordable housing", as if homeowners are opposed to solving that problem. We are not. 

The city's plan is not about affordable housing; rather it is a de facto change in low-density residential zoning that will impose high-density infill on every neighborhood in Gainesville, by right. You could strip out all the language about GNV R.I.S.E. affordable housing and it would still be "a bad bill". The plan will transform every neighborhood, especially those older, less affluent and racially diverse neighborhoods near downtown that are vulnerable to gentrification and displacement.

The city's plan is just another false and misleading attempt to convince those in poverty that the city is doing something to help them, without spending any taxpayer money. Who will benefit the most? Out-of-town investors, speculators and developers. 

In justification of the City’s narrative, the 2016 Obama administration’s “Housing Development Toolkit” is cited:

This document sets out an ambitious agenda for addressing systemic racial and economic disparity in housing, and the impact of zoning barriers on equity and affordability.  No self-respecting progressive politician can ignore the moral importance of these issues.  As Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward recently said, “we have to use every tool in our toolkit” and “start somewhere”.

However, the City is using a “top-down” no-cost approach to execute this agenda, without first asking its citizens what their concerns are, and what they want the city to look like. City planners and politicians alike are using the “affordable housing” banner to mask radical changes in zoning that will affect every homeowner and open up lucrative economic opportunities to developers.

We must balance the legitimate interests of existing homeowners with the emergent need to solve the housing crisis.  The elimination of zoning restrictions to implement “inclusionary zoning”, although a laudable policy goal, significantly affects property rights and the quality of life of those who have invested their life savings in their homes.

Concerns regarding “gentrification” and “displacement” are already evident in the Porter’s and Pleasant Street/5th Avenue neighborhoods. Many “historically black neighborhood” residents actually don’t want to move, already have a well-established cultural identity (despite recent well-intentioned efforts to establish a “narrative”), and just need help to stay in their homes.

More market-rate housing is already coming to Gainesville without density incentives due to high demand. The most profitable business model is to rent by the bedroom to students; such developments will never be “affordable”.  As a result, neighborhoods close to the university are already under stress due to ever-increasing market-rate student rentals, full-time AirBnBs, and inadequate code enforcement. High-density infill may only exacerbate the problem. College students will bring their cars anyway despite elimination of off-street parking requirements; resident street parking decals are already required and competitive in College Park. Gainesville is, and always will be, a college town.

There are better ways to promote affordable housing, but all require real money.

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