Apparently, My Mom Isn’t Welcome in Bay View
Recently I moved my mother from a single family home into a low-income subsidized senior housing development. It wasn’t fun, or easy, but it was necessary. It’s vitally important that all of our communities have facilities like these, as imperfect as they might be, to allow our aging population safe and clean housing to live in. Unfortunately, there is a severe shortage of affordable units, not just in Milwaukee or the Bay View neighborhood, but nationally. For example, my mom’s building which is located in a suburb of Chicago, just like many of the other facilities she looked at both in Milwaukee and Chicago, has a waiting list of over a year to get in it. It would great for her to be able to live in a neighborhood like Bay View where she might walk to the store, the lakefront, or to a park instead of having to drive. It would be even better if she could, on her fixed-income, live in a development with almost no energy bills. Unfortunately, after sitting through Tuesday May 26th’s neighborhood meeting on the proposed Eco Bay development I learned something bothersome about Bay View.
I say bothersome because of the arguments made against the proposal had little to do with design or the green components. Throughout the meeting what many residents used as an argument against the proposal was that it didn’t “maximize tax base,” so it shouldn’t have been the winning proposal. One of the many Bay View residents that opposed the project because of the senior housing component, stated that “if you’re building low-income senior housing you’re not maximizing tax base.” For one, it needs to be pointed out that if “maximizing tax base” is truly the goal then high-rise buildings with lake views should have been allowed as a possible proposal during the RFP process. Though comments by other residents indicating that they “don’t want lots of people in a congested space,” that the project should be “scaled down,” and the fact that Bay View recently passed an overlay district restricting heights, indicate that wasn’t a widely supported alternative. So, this discussion of maximizing tax base was fascinating, misleading, and to me offensive.
Fascinating because the opposition was strong, vocal, and seemed organized, but beyond opposing low-income seniors being able to live in a new facility in Bay View, there wasn’t a lot of comment on the actual design. Misleading and offensive because this discussion of “tax base” was an expression of fears over “low-income” people living in the neighborhood and hurting property values.
Yeah, pretty harsh words from me today, but what I learned at that meeting wasn’t that Bay View is committed to green living, sadly it was that my mom isn’t welcome in Bay View. I truly hope somebody will prove me wrong.