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The abandoned house next door to mine is being rehabbed. Every day when I come back from work, I watch the transformation take place. Last fall the roof was replaced, then the trim was painted. New windows were installed, and a new door. Last week, concrete was poured for the steps. As I watch the building come back to life, I dream about the family who will move in. Maybe they'll have kids who will play with my children. Maybe they'll plant flowers in the front yard. It certainly has occured to me that with every improvement next door, my property value inches upward. Down the street, a new condominium complex is about to break ground. In the next block, a 4-family has been converted to townhomes. I wonder if the 4-family on the other side of us will ever go condo.
But as I see our neighborhood begin to spruce up, I worry that we may lose our affordable housing and our diversity. In ten or fifteen years, will a family like mine be able to buy a home in this neighborhood, or will they be priced out? Communities in different parts of the country have found creative solutions to foster redevelopment while retaining affordable housing, using land trusts, fair share housing mandates, inclusionary zoning ordinances, smart growth boundaries and other planning and zoning tools to create and preserve diverse communities. Development and affordability don't have to be mutually exclusive. With careful planning, and a commitment to building healthy, diverse neighborhoods, I think that we can have both.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)