In order to explain why I care about affordability, I have to explain why I care about the middle class, and it’s personal.
I grew up in a middle-class family. When I was born, my father was a campus minister in Winona, MN. My mother was working as a 2nd grade teacher. When I was less than two years old and before my sister was born, we moved to the Chicago area (Lombard, IL) to be closer to my mom’s family. My dad found work at a new church, and my mom began teaching preschool so that she could be with my sister and me while we were small. My dad then changed positions and became assistant minister at the First United Methodist Church in Lombard. My parents borrowed money so that he could go to law school, and he pursued this double career. When he was seeking his first position in law, he had to leave his position at the church and my parents bought their first home. This is when he was hired to be an assistant state’s attorney for DuPage County (just west of Chicago). But, most importantly, we were living for a time (until I was 8 or 9) on very little money. What he earned they used to pay back law school loans and the mortgage, and my mom worked for the Bell Telephone Company, “Ma Bell,” as a phone operator to help pay the bills. So my earliest, most formative years were very modest, and my parents continued to live very frugally after that. My dad worked for the state’s attorney’s office for six years (from when I was six until I was twelve). He then joined a colleague’s private practice until opening his own office. When my sister and I were in our teens or pre-teens, my mom was able to return to teaching and began teaching math at York Community High School in Elmhurst, IL, through the Title 1, Part A Program for children from low-income families, but then lost her job when that federal education program faced cuts in the 1980s. When my dad opened his own law firm, he did a fair bit of pro bono work and, because he was also a minister, some people expected that. So, this might explain why I received a Federal Pell Grant to go to college. My teachers at Glenbard East High School, all of them excellent and so important to my personal and academic growth, encouraged me to apply where I wanted, telling me that I would likely receive financial aid (the prohibitive cost of higher education is another problem that needs solving today–it was still possible for modest-income families to send their children to college back in the 1980s).
I continue to be middle-class. When my husband and I moved here in 2002, we were stunned by the high-priced housing market. We were fortunate to find an old (circa 1959), though well-built home in the Chamberlin neighborhood that was selling for below $200,000 just two blocks from a public elementary school in South Burlington’s highly touted school district. Now it is worth well over that, and it’s no longer “affordable” from the point of view of a young family, such as we were when we moved here in 2002. Even without the renovations we’ve done, housing prices have soared in Chittenden County, including South Burlington. Simple one-story, two-bedroom ranches can sell for $300,000 or more. That is not affordable for a young family just starting out or for families in general. So I know personally that this is a problem, and I identify completely with families and individuals who would like to move into the area but find the housing costs prohibitive.
I know what it means to live on a tight budget. But not only that, I believe in the value of the middle class for our society. I was instilled with strong values in my middle-class upbringing and background: frugality, hard work, family, community, and service. These are the values that continue to drive me today, and my husband (also from a middle-class, more working-class background) and I hope to be imparting these values to our three children. We are working to make it possible for others to do so, too.
On the Council, I advocate strongly for the protection and enhancement of the affordable housing stock we have. This is why I have vigorously pursued noise abatement with our partners at the Burlington International Airport, in order to protect the remaining residences in the Chamberlin neighborhood. The home buyout program is near completion; however, the removal of these homes has meant the removal of a noise buffer for the remaining residents, who have reported increased noise levels, even more so now that the F-35s have arrived at our Air Guard base. As a Council, we should be working to protect residents’ well-being, their assets, as well as the City’s property tax base. Workforce housing is necessary for our economic prosperity as a city, region, and state, and this type of housing is too expensive to replace, developers say. So it is all the more imperative that we protect it from further encroachment.
I also strongly support the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, suggested the use of TDRs (Transfer of Development Rights) to increase allowable square footage and building height, and am open to special zoning rules designed to encourage affordable housing in areas adjacent to our main thoroughfares close to public transportation. Not only am I a proponent of public transportation, but also use it almost daily to commute to UVM. The CCTA has two local routes through our City, with a third route traveling down 116 from Hinesburg.
Affordability extends to all practical aspects of our lives: housing, transportation, utilities, fuel, goods, and municipal programs. Accordingly, the City is working to keep down costs by investing in solar energy and energy-saving light bulbs and HVAC systems. By lowering the City’s bills, we are lowering the tax-payers’ bill. We also seek to draw to our City a variety of businesses and stores — from local to national chains — that are accessible to different income levels. Finally, our public schools are one of our most important assets since they provide a high-quality education to all. Similarly, our Community Library and Recreation and Parks Department seek to make enrichment programming both easily available and affordable. The School District works closely with the City and vice versa to maintain the excellence of our programs and services while keeping tax rates as low as possible. If reelected to the Council, I will continue to voice the need for the City to meet residents’ ability to pay.