Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Affordable Housing in Woodstock

There's a great article in the New York Times today about affordable housing in Woodstock, NY. At issue is a 53-unit affordable housing complex called Woodstock Commons that is stirring up a lot of controversy, despite having broken ground earlier this summer. Opponents, trying carefully to deflect accusations of Nimbyism, cited practical objections based on Woodstock’s small size, quaint downtown, and aging infrastructure. "Among their complaints: the project is too big, it is at a dangerous bend for traffic and the site should remain green space."
Well, it certainly sounds like Nimbyism to us. The Times quotes the Town Supervisor, who seems to tell it like it is: “Nobody would tell you they don’t want these people in our town. . . . Instead, they talk about the effect on the quality of life, ramping up the costs of services and those kind of things. But there’s a joke in town that the reason The Woodstock Times costs a dollar is because people don’t want change. People come here and they think they have an investment in the town being a certain way.”

The controversy surrounding Woodstock Commons is in many ways analogous to the controversy surrounding the ongoing housing desegregation suit in Westchester, where "limousine liberals" are organizing against court-mandated affordable housing along some of the same grounds. I don't think there are many limousine liberals in Woodstock, but the Woodstockers' claim that they are acting in the interest of Mother Earth bears a resemblance to the sudden concerns about wetland protection that emerged in Westchester communities like Bedford in the 1970s (read James and Nancy Duncan's excellent Landscapes of Power for more on this topic).

The fact remains that, as the article points out, Woodstock real estate prices are "increasingly out of the reach of the humbler classes." Does anything more really need to be said?

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