I once attended a community forum on homelessness held at the Sarasota Herald Tribune building. The topic of conversation was affordable housing. The session began with the New College students that have been studying the trends in homelessness under Dr. David Brain reporting on what’s been happening nationally and what is particular to Sarasota, focusing on the discrepancies between the costs of housing and living wages, and highlighting alternative housing models that are gaining in popularity and exhibiting successes. After the presentation, the students orchestrated a World Cafe to inspire discussion about what Sarasota would look like with more affordable housing, how to get the community involved in the solutions, and how to get everyone on the same page.
The Sarasota Observer, although absent from the discussion, brought attention to the topic on the front page of their paper the following day. Pointing out that only one of the ten most common occupations in the area makes more than 32,000$, and that a growing number of people are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, the article spoke to the failed attempts at city government to develop affordable housing with little hope of them figuring out the dilemma anytime soon.
One of the greatest detriments to finding solutions lies in the fact that real estate has become a lynchpin of the local economy. Although any piece of property may be developed as affordable, as prices are driven continually higher through the continued exchange of the land between our imaginary lines, all housing eventually becomes unaffordable for those not properly vested in the real estate game. On the grander scale, considering that 70% of the own-able property on the planet is now owned by 1% of the population, the rest of us had better figure out how to be more equitable masters in this game before we’re forced to find another planet so that the elite can play golf without having to be concerned with the likes of us.
Ultimately, we’re going to have to embrace the notion that we are collectively inventing civilization through our participation in it. When it all comes down to it, we’re just making it up as we go along. Realistically, none of us has ever done this before, and correcting our trajectory may involve questioning the manner in which “things have always been done” in order to find a better way. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities that the hardships we’re facing now may just be rooted in fallible practices that we have been habitually repeated for generations.
Fortunately, one of the wonderful things about being human is that we do have the capacity to learn from our mistakes, apply earned wisdom, and constantly reinvent ourselves. And while Jesus may have been right about the compared difficulty of fitting a camel through a needle hole and getting a rich person to understand the notion of true abundance, we can still hold out hope that the wealthy will eventually share the planet with us again. If not, we’d better fight like hell to put our 30% to better use.