I posted an article on Facebook about a proposed measure in Washington DC to heavily tax oversized personal vehicles that take up too much room and have an outsized impact on roads, traffic, and emissions. Interesting and rather defensive responses from many people. One person said that the problem with too many people and too much traffic was that we are building way too much affordable housing. I could not let that stand. My response:
Okay, XXXXX, I hear what you are saying and I agree with half of your sentiment. We do need to stop building. But right now we have a shortage of year-round housing. And the way the market is these days, only people with a minimum of $1 million in the bank can get a toe-hold into homeownership (and even then, it’s tough) unless they take advantage of some kind of affordable housing program — a covenant home, a 40B development, an apartment complex. And stable year-round rentals are even harder for people to find. So there will still be construction because there are a few dozen buildable lots still on the island and there are also always older homes that can be purchased, torn down, added to other parcels to create larger seasonal properties or vacation homes, and flipped. We saw a massive amount of this last year and the trend nearly always goes up not down. We are still losing year-round-resident-owned homes at an alarming rate.
And I have seen data that shows that for every vacation home we build, we need a minimum of six new humans to provide a wide range of services for each vacation home. Police, fire, landscapers, cleaners, caretakers, chefs, restaurant workers, fishing boat charter workers, tour guides, teachers, bartenders, non-profit employees, DPW workers, and more. Each home requires we import six more people. (Plus the people who live in it, let’s not forget them; they use resources as well.) We have an employment crisis on this island (and everywhere else, but it’s especially true here because housing is so hard to find.) So when you say we need to stop building affordable housing, well, you’re just wrong. This is not an opinion. Look at the data. The numbers say we need fewer vacation homes and more affordable and accessible housing for residents of the island. We need more workforce housing.
Now, your post and your attitude are indicative of the larger problem. You are blaming the problems of the island on someone else. But you are clearly not asking, “what can I do to lessen my impact? What can I do to make the island a better place? What can I do to make things easier and better for the community? What can I do to strengthen the position of islanders?” Maybe if we all asked these questions and took some personal responsibility for the people we call neighbors, the problems would ease. Unfortunately, blame is so much easier. It requires no critical thinking. It requires no sacrifice. It’s all someone else’s problem. Someone else’s fault.
It’s not. It’s all our fault. We need to do better.