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A Sign of North Shore Housing Discrimination

April 20th, 2016 by Andrew DeFranza

We have had a lot going here at HCP lately.

We are working every day to provide good, safe, and affordable housing all around the North Shore.

This is housing for retired, fixed income seniors, people with disabilities, and working families.

This is housing that, as a community, as a county, and as a state, we need more of and in varying forms.

Currently, HCP is working through a court process for a Wenham project (Maple Woods), as we passionately defend our permit to build 60 affordable senior units. The legal process is hard, expensive, and time consuming. While we pour ourselves into this struggle, the human and financial resources expended preclude us from working in other ways and in other communities to help people who need it.

HCP is also looking into and contemplating new housing in Hamilton, Beverly, and Rockport. There will be much more on these potential projects in the near future. This is not easy.  The hurdles are difficult to navigate, be they complicated financial structures, addressing environmental concerns, being strategic in planning for human needs into the coming decades, and more. But the most distressing hurdle is the one which became very evident on busy Route 1A, as we begin to explore a new project.  This discriminatory and erroneous sign, in reference to a potential mixed use family and elder development, is the hurdle which most saddens us, gives us pause, but ultimately, strengthens our resolve.

In the midst of myriad meetings, late nights, emails, phone conversations, and too many cups of coffee, I was profoundly struck by two things, which not just gave me pause, but stopped me in my tracks.
1.One, a plea for help. We received an email last week from a family. Essentially, the email stated….We have children. We work full time at a local health care facility. We are in a local homeless shelter. We have first and last months rent. We can move in anytime……While we receive these emails daily, this one came in the midst of our preparation for court regarding Maple Woods. The email came in as we think about and talk with other communities about what it will cost to pursue unit creation for this working family and too many others who reach out to us. But most poignantly, It came just before this afore mentioned sign was erected.
2.The next moment came as I told my seven year old daughter about the email from the family. It was told in part to explain to my child where dad had been all week and why. Her response was, without hesitation, “Dad….they could live with us!”

I was trying to teach her something…my daughter. Instead she is teaching all the rest of us.   “Dad…they could live with us…..”

So how about it North Shore? Can they live with us? Can teachers, firefighters, nurses, retirees, carpenters, office staff, and others live with us?

If we want them to live with us, then we all need to stand up and say so.

Good people of good will need to use their voices in each community on the North Shore and say that it is good and right and responsible for us to make housing available across the region for our elders, our disabled neighbors, our children, our employees and those upon whose services we depend.

So how about it? What are you going to do about it now that it is on your mind? Please do something. It’s time to do something. Do what you can do to help make this happen.

You can do it.

~ Andrew

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