Can homeownership change Ward 8?

Last night I attended the Far SE Livability Study II public comment meeting. D. and their contractors, KCI, were collecting public comment on the plans for stoplight improvement, bike lane installation and bus stop improvements – among other things – for the area between Good Hope/Naylor Rd, Southern Ave. Massachusetts Ave. SE and the Anacostia freeway.

As I’m sitting in the audience, listening to the questions and the general sentiment that this is being done “to” us an not “with” us, it got me to thinking. First, I think D. is doing what it can to get community input. This was the final meeting in a series of three on the topic. I didn’t attend the other two, but it seems as though they are willing to take community comment into consideration.

However, what struck me the most is that when discussing bike lanes, one of the gentlemen in the audience asked how many residents in Ward 8 use bike lanes? He went on to ask if the lanes were being put in to accommodate current or incoming residents? Seemed like a fair question. But there was no answer. The presenters are getting back to us with the number of current cyclists in Ward 8.

The meeting went on to discuss maps of several intersections in the study area and how they will be updated. It came out, through discussion that there are several new communities (or relatively new communities) in and around some of the proposed changes. These are my words and not theirs – but it seems to me that the improvements are being made to accomodate current and to some degree new homeowners. Homeowners is the operative term here.

The National Association of Realtors commissioned a study in August of 2010 outlining the social benefits of homeownership. The paper, titled  Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing, finds “in gereral, research supports the view that homeownership brings substantial social benefits. Because of these extensive social beefits – what economists call positive externalities – policies that support sustainable homeownership are well justified.”

The report finds that homeownership dosen’t have an affect on educational achievement, it does however, have an affect on children’s success – including reduced deviant behavior and higher earnings for the children of homeowners later in life.

I’m inclined to believe that a lack of home ownership is the “root cause” to a number of other challenges we face. What do you think? Is the Far Southeast Livability Study II one of these sustainable homeownership policies? Do you think increased homeownership in Ward 8 will reduce the social ills we experience? (troubled youth and schools, lower income populous etc).

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