My name is Mike McFadden and I am the Turtle Creek maintenance man. I have been working for Harborlight Community Partners (HCP) for over 8 years. Here is my point of view on the work we do at HCP.
Andrew DeFranza, our executive director, asked me to give a few thoughts on my experience at HCP with regard to our company mission for our quarterly staff meeting. This is an odd task for me because my daily job in maintenance doesn’t normally find me pondering the philosophical underpinnings of our work. That being said I do think it’s important to regard that overarching ideal and try to find where in about the quality of care that we should strive for. Namely, compassion, respect, kindness, hard work. This is the backbone of how to build communities.
It’s difficult in our day-to-day jobs to keep large picture concepts in mind and frankly, those kinds of themes don’t motivate me very much on a daily basis. I can speak to what does, though.
My role in maintenance is to take care of Turtle Creek. To keep the building in order I have to do many tasks, both big and small, and many go unremarked and largely unnoticed. A visitor saw me sweeping leaves from a doorway one windy day and remarked, “That’s a thankless job.” It is, for the most part, and that’s just fine. Accomplishing a thankless job well is something to take pride in. We do the work because it needs to be done. No one ever donated to a nonprofit because their finance department can whip out awesome spreadsheets, or because the property manager got all the rent checks in on time. We all, for the most part, have thankless jobs. You should celebrate that. When you input numbers into the cell and the bottom line comes out right, go get a high five from somebody. All the walkways are clear of snow, go find someone to fist bump. Take joy in small victories.
In maintenance I am part repairman, part janitor. Another term might be custodian. I feel this accurately describes what I do. Take custody of your place. Say to yourself: “This is my building. Those are my residents”. I’m as much a custodian of the bricks and mortar as I am of the people within those walls. Care for your residents as individuals. This part is not usually addressed but is so integral to providing homes instead of just housing. Simple things like asking folks about their lives. “Where did they raise their families? What did you do for a living?” Let them show you pictures of their grandkids. Share in their small victories. I have a resident who goes swimming once a week and I always ask her if she had a great swim, not because I am all that interested in her lap times but because I know she looks forward to her time in the pool. She’s always tickled when I ask and it puts a smile on her face. This is community.
Caring for others in the most mundane ways through hard work, compassion, kindness. Doing the thankless jobs well. Taking custody of the lives around you. Celebrate small victories. Keep sweeping leaves against the wind. Thank you.
About our Guest Blogger: Mike McFadden is a lifelong Beverly resident and has served on Harborlight Community Partners’ maintenance staff team since 2008.
Posted in Uncategorized
It’s a lovely day outside. A day that is desperately trying to move from Winter to Spring. It is a move that requires a level of hope, tenacity, and priorities as my daffodils are showing me struggling through the snow.
In this season I have you…my North Shore neighbors…on my mind.
If you are struggling in this season either with too many pressures or too much self indulgence (or both) take a minute to think about what is most important to you.
What kind of community do you want to live in? What kind of world do you want your children or grandchildren to live in? What kind of character do we want our young people to aspire to?
Is it a world where kindness, character, and thinking about others are core priorities?
Is it a world that you hope for and are willing to set your mind on?
I am betting it is.
This is a special place full of many special people.
I am betting on all of us thinking beyond our own concerns and entertainments and making this a region marked by character and looking out for each other.
I am betting on you. I am grateful for you.
Here comes to warm weather. Let’s get to it.”
By Denise Frame Harlan
My husband Scott and I were living a charmed life, the spring I turned 34. We lived in the servants’ quarters of The Sargent House, a peeling gray museum in the heart of the historic district of Gloucester, Massachusetts. I needed one more year to complete grad school. Scott had just begun teaching at Landmark Middle School, and he was thrilled to do meaningful work. With free rent, in exchange for tour-guiding and household services, we were paying off our educations and our car, and we were managing our lives pretty well. I had worked as a college residence director for many years. We had run conference centers and served as live-in help. I had only paid 18 months of rent in my adult life, and I wanted to keep that number. Within a month of a positive pregnancy test, the museum announced a major renovation project—including the scraping of lead paint. We would need to leave immediately for the safety of the baby.
I clipped 40 classified ads over the next month, and taped them to a yellow legal pad. Each apartment I visited seemed worse than the last.
The curator of the museum suggested an affordable housing neighborhood called Haven Terrace. Scott and I walked up the staircase to find gorgeous views of Gloucester Harbor from light, airy condos. We chose a two-bedroom, 650 square feet in a smart design, at the cost of $49,000, and we moved in on our sixth wedding anniversary. As new neighbors, we all laid brick patios and power-washed the outdoor staircases—we all painted and weeded and grilled out when the landscape truck delivered mulch. By Christmas, our baby arrived and we truly settled in with our neighbors from Sierra Leone, Ireland, Costa Rica and Vietnam. If we had wondered what kind of people live in affordable housing, now we knew: we were teachers and school janitors and college professors, activists and social workers and single parents, veterans and musicians and restaurant owners.
Haven Terrace home drawn by one of Harlan’s children.
On Snow Days at Haven Terrace, our Parking Czar would phone, announcing the arrival of the snowplow, and every car would need to be cleared, moved, shuttled to another lot like those little games with plastic squares that shift, one car at a time. As the massive effort continued through the morning, I’d call around to organize vats of hot soup and quantities of coffee. All the neighbors would bring good food to share for a giant potluck feast after the parking lot was restored to order. The children would sled down Haven Terrace, with adults lining the sides of the road to keep everyone safe. It seemed like a miracle, on snow days, like the small town where I grew up.
Affordable housing allows good people to stay on the North Shore.
I do know Scott could not have stayed at Landmark without affordable housing. I could not have cared for our children, without affordable housing. I finished a graduate degree while we lived in affordable housing. We stayed on Haven Terrace for 13 years. By the time we left Haven Terrace, our condo had nearly doubled in value.
We recently purchased a home in Ipswich, and Scott is finishing year 20 at Landmark, the premiere school for students with language-based learning disabilities. I am completing my seventh year as an adjunct professor and writer. Without affordable housing, we would have taken our gifts to a cheaper part of the country. Because of affordable housing, we could stay on the North Shore, in jobs we cherish.
Our housing debt –for this home, on the marsh–is crushing for one full-time educator and one part-time educator, but we are still here. I would like to say we are scraping by, but we will be struggling as long as we live on the North Shore. We would be much worse off without that “leg up” offered by organizations like Harborlight. We are so thankful for those years on Haven Terrace, where our family could take root and thrive.
I would not have foreseen this life from the charmed age of 34, from our perch in the museum house. The teenagers are growing into adults, and we love our work. Haven Terrace shaped us, all of us. Many thanks to our former neighbors who continue to live there. Aren’t you glad to be there? We grew too big for the space we had chosen, but we think of you often.
Especially on snow days.
About our Guest Blogger
Denise Frame Harlan writes from the edge of The Great Marsh, where she lives with Scott and two kids who are no longer kids. Denise holds an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University. She teaches first-year writing and coaches teens through the college application essay. You can find links to her work at deniseframeharlan.com.
By Sarah Bartley
My eyes were glued to the paper. The Globe didn’t interview me, I thought, but oh man, they sure explained my life.
I grew up in a two-bedroom, second-floor apartment that anchored a quiet street, lined by a mix of single-family and two-family homes with yards. I fondly remember it as a small town known for high-quality schools, a bustling public library, and a municipal swimming pool. There is absolutely no reason my mother and I should have afforded to live in that community.
In fact, we almost didn’t live there. When I was in Kindergarten we lived in a neighboring city in a tiny walk-up apartment above a store-front. That apartment was hardly in our price-range.
But then an amazing thing happened. We began attending a church where someone connected us to an elderly widow who owned four apartments nearby. She took a chance on us and, out of both kindness and convenience, rented to us for a stable, below market-rate price for the 15-years, coinciding with my school career. My story is rare ”we were both extraordinarily fortunate and privileged.
When we lived there, the town graduation rate was nearly 100%. There was an 11:1 ratio of teachers to students. The vast majority graduated fully expecting to attend college or a trade school. My point in telling my story is to highlight how where I happened to live influenced my educational trajectory. Location also opened access to adult-mentors and extracurricular activities. I lived a different kind of childhood because my family found affordable housing in a community that had a lot to share.
The handful of cities and towns that make up the North Shore also have a lot to share. While there is always room for improvement, we no doubt have some good schools. We have some thriving businesses, beautiful parks, and generous people. I suspect that is the reason our communities can also be at times resistant to the creation of affordable housing. What if, we might wonder, the resources get spread too thin? Will our communities change?
Back to that article I picked up. The Globe has been looking at how income disparities are reshaping our region. They found that just 21 percent of federally subsidized units in Eastern Massachusetts are in so-called high-opportunity neighborhoods, with ready access to jobs, healthy food, and quality schools. When suburban communities do create affordable housing, it’s often restricted for seniors to avoid adding more children to the schools. Politics and inertia have conspired to create a lopsided geography of affordable housing.
This means that stories like mine really are rare. I am sure we can all agree that all children in all neighborhoods deserve an equal chance at life. That is what we should be striving for. But as I think about what my community has to offer, I believe we hold the keys to a very special opportunity to share. When opportunities to create family-friendly affordable housing arise, I hope we will say yes more often.
About our Guest Blogger:
Sarah Bartley is a Beverly resident and active with local organizations who serve families experiencing homelessness.
By Stacey Verge, Executive Director, Acord Food Pantry
Did you realize that 1 in 8 people in Massachusetts suffer from food insecurity?
Most people don’t realize just how prevalent food insecurity is within their own towns and neighborhoods. Acord Food Pantry in Hamilton is here to help those who suffer from food insecurity here on the North Shore. We support 4,000 visits each year as we work towards our mission of empowering individuals and families to feed themselves in a nutritionally balanced way. We are so fortunate to be housed in a Harborlight Community Partners owned building, Firehouse Place (which houses four affordable units). HCP allows us to provide our invaluable services to so many in the community by giving Acord a great place to operate our food pantry.
At Acord, we serve many people who are in need from all walks of life those who are elderly and on a fixed income (including HCP residents), those who are disabled, those who are going through a rough patch and need a little assistance and even those who are employed. The high cost of living can mean that even those who are employed full time still can’t cover all of their bills and provide healthy food for their families. Acord relies on many others to help us provide food assistance and other client programs. We receive so much support and so many contributions from businesses, foundations and individual donors. Local farms help to provide fresh, local produce. Schools teach service to their students by organizing food drives. Local businesses hold food drives and collect monetary donations. We have over 100 volunteers who give so much of themselves every month. And even Tony, an HCP Firehouse Place resident, takes in our empty barrels and keeps an eye on things, especially in the winter months..
Acord could not do what we do without the support of so many community partners, such a HCP. Working together to help out those in need in our communities makes all of our communities much stronger.
As we head into the holiday season, filled with family gatherings, holiday planning and celebrations, please take some time out to be thankful for all that you have and remember your neighbors who may need a little extra assistance. And maybe reach out to those organizations who help to take care of those who are most vulnerable in our communities.
About our Guest Blogger:
Stacey Verge has served as the Executive Director of Acord for over two years, and loves working someplace where most of the phone calls and emails she receives are from people offering to help out in some way. It renews your faith in people.
By Rich Lehrer
A unique 3D printing partnership leads to deep learning and new friendships – for a group of 6th grade students
In May, 2016, fellow Brookwood School teacher, Annie Johnson, and I had one of the most transformative experiences of our respective teaching careers when a small group of our 6th grade students participated in an authentic 3D designing and printing relationship with the residents of Harborlight House in Beverly all documented in a wonderful WGBH Design Squad Global video.
This week-long experience was the culmination of what has been a three-year deep dive into an incredibly exciting and innovated educational initiative we have been piloting at Brookwood: The use of human centered design and purposeful and authentic 3D printing to teach middle school students how to consider another’s perspective and to, potentially, become more empathic.
This journey started for our school in 2013 when, after seeing an inspirational Youtube video on the first open-sourced, 3D printable prosthetic, I engaged a group of students in an exceptional year-long pursuit: the creation of a mechanical prosthetic device for my son. When, quite surprisingly, the project actually ended successfully with my son using the device my students had built, it was clear we now had a powerful and tangible example of the power of this new technology to effect real change in the life of another person.
Over the past two years, Brookwood School has begun to break some interesting ground in the use of authentic 3D designing and printing to teach empathy to our students. In addition to becoming one of the leading collaborators with the global 3D printed prosthetic group, the Enable Community Foundation, in 2014 we created a unique initiative called the Brookwood 3D Design Problem Bank. In this project anyone from our community can post a problem in need of a 3D designed solution to a website we have created and our students become the inventors (in the true sense of the work) who spend time considering the point of view of the problem poster and then design, iterate, print and share the solutions they have created.
Last year, drawing on these and other projects, Annie proposed an interesting extension of this authentic community designing work during our planning of a one-week experiential 3D printing course for a group of 6th grade girls. Her idea? Taking our students out of the school and into the community to have them work with a group of seniors from Harborlight House seniors affordable housing residence to design and print assistive devices that might, in some way, be of use to the residents.
This idea of having students engage in this work with a group of adults they had never met and who might also not be familiar with 3D printing promised to push us all outside of our comfort zone – but the potential for huge educational payoff, not only in terms these girls’ problem solving experiences and growth but also in terms of creating empathic connections between our independent school students and residents of an affordable housing facility while breaking ground for other schools to do this sort of work, seemed very promising. After Annie reached out to Andrew DeFranza, Harborlight Community Partners Executive Director, and he was on board we were on our way.
In May, after Harborlight Community Partners representatives Deanna Fay and Karen Estey visited the school to tell our students a little more about Harborlight House, students were given a chance to ask questions in order to further their understanding of affordable housing, the residents with whom they would be collaborating, and the types of problems in need of a 3D printed solution they might encounter. We then spent two days preparing the students for their first visit, teaching them design skills, having them practice solving problems with 3D printing, and exploring the issue of empathy and how putting themselves in the place of the people with whom they will be collaborating could be the most important key to effective problem solving. By the time the first of the three days we had allotted for this project arrived, and our students entered Harborlight House and were introduced to a group of five residents, they were excited at the prospect of beginning ¦if not a little nervous.
Students began by doing a small presentation on 3D printing for the residents and shared some of the solutions they had been designing as well as several 3D printed prosthetics that classmates had built. The response from the residents could not have been more wonderful. Excellent questions, sincere interest in the previous work of the students, and a genuine appreciate for the power of this technology abounded. Any trepidation that the students had been feeling melted away when students in pairs or by themselves broke off to begin interviewing for empathy. Students introduced themselves and began asking questions about the residents’ interests, living situation, and past.
As we had rehearsed, these burgeoning engineers then began to steer the conversations toward the types of challenges residents or their friends might be facing for which there could be a potential 3D printed solution. The students heard how arthritis was making it difficult for some of the residents to do things that had once been easy: turning keys in locks, holding tablets during long Skype sessions, safely cutting bagels, and even holding cutlery. Students also heard about how some of these challenges were affecting residents’ daily lives when, for example, the difficulties associated with picking up small plastic Bingo chips was discouraging residents from coming down to engage in some much needed social interactions. After over an hour of lively discussions, brainstorming, trips to residents’ apartments, and measuring, our students headed back to school with a number of very promising problems to solve.
For the following two days, students brainstormed solutions, created prototypes out of conventional materials such as cardboard and duct tape, began to produce their first digital iterations using the free online designing program, Tinkercad, and 3D printed these first draft versions of their inventions. The next day we headed back to Harborlight House to reconfirm measurements, have residents try out first iterations, and provide feedback for students. We headed back to the lab to continue refining, printing, and testing and by the third day, student inventions were ready to be shared. Students and residents met in the dining room to celebrate the friendships formed, the collaborations and relationships that resulted in some wonderful assistive inventions and of course to reveal the solutions themselves. From Noffee coffee cup spill catchers, to E-Z Grab Bingo chips, to Safe-T-Bagel cutter, and the Key Sleeve , students proudly presented their inventions and residents were delighted in their functionality.
Both Annie and I were struck with how the shared purpose and collaborative nature of this project broke down any barriers between these seniors and children and the relationships that were formed provided a means for our students to develop a newfound understanding of the lives of seniors in an affordable housing facility. Residents clearly appreciated the students’ willingness to both work with them to create the assistive devices and acknowledge the importance of considering a perspective other than their own in the pursuit of a collaboratively solved problem. We have no doubt that we are on the way to something very special with this work if the incredibly positive responses from people with whom I shared our project at the World Maker Faire in New York City are anything to go by – and we look forward to further collaborations between Brookwood School and Harborlight Community Partners.
About our Guest Blogger:
Rich Lehrer is a teacher and the Innovation Coordinator at the Brookwood School in Manchester, MA. He is a graduate of the University of Regina, B.S.; University of British Columbia, B.Ed.; and The College of New Jersey, M.Ed.
Brookwood School’s D-Zign Girlz Steep Week class, co-taught by Rich Lehrer and Annie Johnson are the recipients of Harborlight Community Partner’s 2016 Celebration of Partnerships, Service Partner Award for the Harborlight House collaborative project described in this article.
by Andrew DeFranza
Harborlight Community Partners’, Andrew DeFranza, was among those honored at the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development (WIHED), 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting on September 20th. The following are Andrew’s acceptance remarks as the recipient of WIHED’s 2016 Anne Gelbspan Partners in Community Award.
On behalf of HCP thank you for having us here. It is an honor to receive this award and be mentioned with Ann Gelpsban.
Anne Gelbspan and Andrew DeFranza
Thank you to our staff who are the ones who work out our missional commitments day after day.
Thank you to our Board who invest their time, money and networks into this effort.
Thank you to our residents and supporters, our community leaders, and partners like The Life Initiative, and the ever courageous Kristin Harol.
Thank you especially to our friends at WIHED.
As I am fortunate to be here tonight in the wonderful company of my ten year old daughter it is a joy for me to introduce her to such smart, bold, missional, and strong leaders. Thank you all for that. Let’s hope for more glass ceilings to be broken in the near term so she can see more possibilities, and dream bigger dreams.
For all of YOU a word of encouragement.
It is not easy ¦this work we all do together. Some days are harder than others, but you do it anyway.
Not simple, but critical. All of you in your efforts are making a large impact on people who need you. People you may never meet but who count on you.
All of you are a part of making sure that important members of our society are not economically excluded.
When you review those plans, negotiate the price on credits, solve that construction problem, build community well, host that neighborhood meeting, and advocate for better policies (like by-right multi family zoning), when you do this you are making homes for seniors, families and people with disabilities. Not easy.
You do that WIHED, and you are doing it well.
When we were kids my mother in an effort to prioritize what is good used to say, Andrew, you make that shirt look good. It is in our humanity, our souls, that the good is present, Not in the packaging. The one derives its good from the other was the point.
In that same vein I would say to all of you ¦. You make this mission look good.
Here is to you. May you have the courage, patience, and endurance to carry this mission on.
About the Anne Gelspan Partners in Community Award (from WIHED):
The Partners in Community Award has been created to honor our beloved colleague, Anne Gelbspan. Anne retired at the end of 2011 after working with the Women’s Institute for over twenty years, creating much-needed housing for homeless and at-risk families and partnering with countless organizations and communities in Massachusetts. Anne’s commitment to her work, partners, and industry reached far beyond the many affordable housing projects she shepherded to reality. For her, it was not only the unit-count of the much-needed housing we created. Anne’s vision looked further to how we truly create community ”bringing people, partners, organizations, and towns together in a common purpose to offer greater opportunity for all. Never one to rest, even in retirement, Anne continues this convening work today in her home community of Jamaica Plain. The Women’s Institute is proud to honor the work and spirit of our long-time friend by recognizing others with a like-minded vision and excellence in their own communities.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged 2016, Affordable housing, Andrew DeFranza, Anne Gelbspan Partners in Community award, Anne Gelspan, elder housing, fair housing, family housing, Harborlight Community Partners, HCP, housing, housing discrimination, housing for disabled, Kristin Harol, MA, North Shore housing, Senior housing, The Life Initiative, WIHED, WIHED 35th anniversary annual meeting, Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development, zoning reform
By Robert Gillis
Local town and city zoning ordinances reflect a community’s desire to maintain its character and stability. This makes sense. None of us wants dramatic changes to our neighborhoods which could adversely affect our collective quality of life. Zoning strategies used toward this end in our North Shore communities include increasing the minimum lot sizes upon which to build new homes and eliminating or restricting the ability to build multi-family housing. These restrictions were also put into place to prevent excessive auto traffic, over-burdening the public schools, and stress on public works, such as sewer systems.
One consequence of these zoning restrictions is that there is an insufficient supply of new housing being built to accommodate the demand for decent, affordable housing. So, demand exceeds supply and prices go up for both apartment rentals and home ownership. Basic economics.
As housing prices accelerate, those folks among us earning less than median income have a harder time keeping up. We might not think about it, but we all know people in our communities making less than median income. They might be our neighbors, people who wait on us in a restaurant or supermarket, or perhaps even family members. These are people who are quietly struggling to make ends meet. They might be young families, seniors living on fixed incomes, working people, and folks with disabilities. They are typically paying too high a percentage of their incomes than is affordable and/or live in inadequate conditions. Exacerbating this is that, according to the Massachusetts Housing Partnership report Unlocking the Commonwealth, instead of responding to the need for housing for these folks with increased production, the state has produced less housing. In addition, there has been a shift away from multifamily housing and toward more single-family homes and larger lots. This option is out of reach for many of these families of median and lower income.
Zoning reform legislation in Massachusetts was recently introduced and passed the Senate ( An Act Promoting Housing and Sustainable Development S.2311) but did not make it through the House of Representatives. The issue needs to remain in the forefront in order for our communities to meet the needs of all our citizens. Zoning is by far the most difficult hurdle to overcome when working to preserve or create affordable housing for families in our area. The Massachusetts Housing Partnership asserts that the primary cause of the affordable housing crisis is restrictive local zoning laws. With this in mind, Harborlight Community Partners is working with local and state leaders and housing advocates to create an impactful dialogue around local zoning.
I am proud to represent Harborlight Community Partners, an organization which has as its mission to address the housing needs of people at the lower end of the income scale. Harborlight does this well. The challenge we have is clear. Working with great organizations like Harborlight Community Partners we really can improve the lives of many and make our communities better.
Robert J. Gillis, Jr., President
Harborlight Community Partners
About our Guest Blogger:
Robert J. Gillis Jr. is Executive Vice-President of Cape Ann Savings Bank. Bob has been with the bank for many years, and knows the Cape Ann community well. In that time, Bob has served as president of the Rockport Rotary Club, president of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, and has served on the board of directors for the Community Land Trust of Cape Ann, The Open Door community food pantry, and the Cape Ann YMCA. Bob loves connecting with people and making an impact for those in need.
By Jason Silva
To me, it’s actually pretty simple. People deserve a safe place to live and call home. Let’s do this.
When you hear the words affordable housing what comes to mind? Think about it for a second. What does it look like? Who lives there? Where is it located? Here’s what comes to mind for me.
A family with a single mother of 5 kids, 3 boys and 2 girls. Unfortunately, this family had financial difficulties and was evicted from their apartment. Thankfully, they had a network of family to take them in and had enough space to allow them to stay for a few years. Without this, this family would have been homeless. After waiting 3 years, they were granted an apartment in a public housing development. Believe it or not, it was a great place to raise a family tons of kids and families, a basketball court, huge playing fields and, most importantly, a roof over the family’s collective head.
This apartment, along with support from friends and their extended family, allowed this family to get back on track. Eventually, they were able to move out of public housing and into a home which they owned. All of this made the dream of owning a home a reality, one that just 10 years before seemed impossible.
I’m going to now focus on the oldest of the kids, one of the 3 boys. He was a shy, quiet, short and skinny kid. He was a decent student and heavily influenced by not only his mom, but by his grandparents too, who helped raise all the kids in the family. He was addicted to basketball. He played every day. It occupied all of his free time. He learned a lot from basketball hard work, team work, communication, relationship building. All of which he needed to learn.
He received support from an extended family of friends and also from a network of amazing people in the community. As he moved through school he met his high school sweetheart, who he ultimately married. Her support was critical to his success in high school and college.
Upon graduation, influenced by his experience growing up, he decided he wanted to go into public service. He interned in Washington DC, worked on political campaigns, and for an advocacy group, local and state government and a non-profit. He also decided to run for office locally, with the intent to give back to the community that gave him and his family so much. He’s now serving his 3rd term on the City Council.
Personally, he just celebrated his 12th wedding anniversary, owns a home and has 3 young boys he loves very much.
So, you’ve probably guessed by now that this story is my own. I share it because it tells a story of what a safe, affordable home can mean to a family and an individual. It is also a great example of the importance of a community – an extended network of support – that cares about those that need help.
People and families who need housing – affordable, workforce, low-income housing – aren’t scary or dangerous or faceless. Look in the mirror. They’re people like you and me. People, who if given a chance, can reach success and happiness. They’re our friends and neighbors. Their kids attend the same schools, are in the same classes and play in the same parks. They want the same things.
Remember too, affordable housing should be offered in everyone’s neighborhood. It should be built well, should look attractive and be of high-quality.
About our Guest Blogger:
Jason Silva is currently serving his third term on the Beverly City Council. Silva has extensive experience as a public servant having worked for local and state governments, in the non-profit sector and for an advocacy organization. He has also worked at all levels in the political arena. He is a graduate of Salem State University and is currently attending Suffolk University.
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Tagged #affordablehousing, #CDCsWork, #HCPstandup, 40B, Affordable housing, Affordable Housing Advocate, affordable housing success stories, Andrew DeFranza, benefits of affordable housing, Beverly, City of Beverly, fair housing, family housing, Growing up in affordable housing, Harborlight Community Partners, HCP, housing, housing for people with disabilities, Jason Silva, low income housing, Maple Woods, Miles River, NIMBY, north shore, North Shore housing for families, safe affordable housing for families, Senior housing, Wenham, who lives in affordable housing
The DeFranza Family
Andrew, Eden (8), Megan, Loren (10)
This Housing Matters Blog post is excerpted from a sermon I was invited to deliver at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex, MA on April 17, 2016. I did my undergrad in Biblical Studies and I went to seminary, though I try not to admit it in public. For the full text of the sermon, link HERE.
What follows is the message that I hoped to impart. I do not often talk of my personal motivation for this work. This was that unique opportunity to do so.
* * *
My name is Andrew DeFranza. I am a short, working class, Italian guy from New Jersey with an accidental white collar education. Most of what you need to know about me you now do.
I work with Harborlight Community Partners. We develop and manage housing for people with limited incomes:
- Parents, grandparents, working families ¦.people with disabilities.
- People whose work we depend on ¦who grow and serve our food, care for our children and parents, cut our grass, pick our fruit, and pour our drinks!
- We are involved with nearly 420 units of housing of which 370 are on the North Shore.
- We are working in 8 soon to be 9 communities and support homes for 500-600 people.
- This includes places like Turtle Creek, Turtle Woods, Pigeon Cove Ledges, Rockport High School Apartments, Whipple Riverview Place, and the Community Land Trust of Cape Ann.
- We spent a lot of time doing very boring and painful things the result of which is that economically vulnerable people can be included in our community.
- This is all harder than it should be.
I don’t often get to talk about the work we do and my personal motives. I grew up in a very conservative Church setting. We were the Italian Baptist connection of South Jersey (which is kind of strange). It worked for us. My parents are the most faithful people I know. They used all they had to pursue their convictions. I am barely the scent of their faithfulness.
(Within this context), our definitive directions (as I see it) are:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and
- Love your neighbor as yourself
The first, in many ways, being evidenced by the second.
Neighboring – having much more to do with our behavior being consistent with the second greatest commandment than anyone’s physical proximity. Someone standing as our neighbor is about our character and behavior and not their zip code. Part of what we do act to right wrongs and to bring the good.
One of those wrongs in our community is related to housing. We have in our region a history of housing policy that is and has been designed to exclude. It is designed to exclude based on race and income ¦.and it has been wildly successful as evidenced by a stroll around many North Shore communities or a quick look at the census data on www.census.gov.
There were ways this was done before like redlining and strategically placed roads and bridges. There are ways it is done now like large lot, no multi family zoning and intentionally limited infrastructure around transportation, water, and sewers or septic systems.
75% of land that can be developed in the State is zoning only for single family housing.
We have fabricated a shortage of land for multi family housing creation which has driven up the costs of housing we need for people.
Our primary cause of the affordable housing crisis, according to a recent Mass Housing Partnership report, is restrictive local zoning laws.
Community Preservation Act funding that is supposed to go to housing is at times going to reports, staffing, planning, and rental assistance ¦.with no housing ever being built.
Lack of public sewer and water is used as a means to control growth.
Only people then with significant resources can buy the land, the water and septic systems, and the transportation access.
Others without that type of income cannot.
We make then for ourselves gated municipalities without gates ¦but to the same effect.
We get largely white and largely affluent communities because our policies intended it.
We have local discussions about diversity and fair housing. We set up committees to explore and support racial inclusion and housing access.
We house homeless families in our Churches through Family Promise and yet despite all this we are bewildered by how hard it is for people to find a place to live.
This is at best sadly ironic. At its worst it is morally incoherent.
But unlike many of the wrongs far away that we have little ability to address ourselves—this wrong we own. This wrong we can change.
We can support changes in zoning locally and at the State level.
We can support the use of Community Preservation Act resources for actual housing creation.
We can tell our leaders and neighbors that our collective and structural pattern of exclusion is not right and that we need to act to fix it.
WE CAN DO THIS.
We can change these unfair land use systems.
This will be hard but we have hope and motive ¦and so we act.
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Tagged Affordable housing, Andrew DeFranza, fair housing, family housing, Hamilton, Harborlight Community Partners, HCP, housing, housing discrimination, MA, Maple Woods, Megan DeFranza, Miles River, NIMBY, north shore, Senior housing, Universalist Unitarian Church of Essex, Wenham