As I write this column it’s almost reaching the 90s again, but I’m told cooler weather is soon in store for us. That would be a blessing for many.
As a part of the ministries we as pastors and religious leaders see and support in the community, one that has drawn my attention over the last five years is a group of not-for-profit organizations, agencies, and community leaders that are working to better understand housing needs in the city of Delaware and in Delaware County. The greatest need seems to be for affordable housing. Of course, “affordable” means different things to different people, but affordable for the greater percentage of people in Delaware means owning a small home, duplex, condominium or renting.
I’ve seen several Delaware County real estate developments in the news the last few weeks and months. Some would directly serve the city of Delaware, most of the others are elsewhere in the county. Most of them directly serve single-family homes, although more seem to be having or including some form of multi-family units. But it’s not just about apartments or condos. It’s also about transportation, about food, about medical care, about education, and leisure time (if you can afford it.)
NIMBY is an acronym that many folks are still just learning but learning for good reason. Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) is an effect that sometimes drives housing projects. Its premise is that I don’t want less expensive housing being developed in my neighborhood (whether or not it’s near my back yard.)
You may believe that NIMBY doesn’t matter in your neighborhood that’s already been developed, but effective housing developments affect each of us in the community by simple economics. If people can’t live close enough to the work they do, they all need transportation to get there, and back, when the work is done. And many of those in the middle- and lower-income brackets are working more than one job each day to make ends meet as employers find ways to keep jobs part-time to be more profitable and avoid paying more benefits just like their competitors do.
This means that getting from one job to another is critical for these workers or they’re not likely to keep the “next” job because they’re often not on time to the job. Of course, there are other complications of being sick and getting to a doctor and pharmacy, family members that are sick, and shopping for groceries in neighborhoods that don’t have a grocery store, just to name a few. How close is the nearest urgent care office and how long would it take you to walk there with a sick child?
How do we, as planners and creators in the community, encourage and lead the projects and services that will serve all our communities? It’s not an easy path to take. The months and years it takes to regularly watch, gather information, evaluate, encourage and support housing in our communities is an ongoing challenge. We go through cycles of years, and then start the process again.
Step forward and get involved. Tell your story. Ask how you can help. Our religious communities can help, too. Talk with your pastor and other leaders in your religious organizations. How does God move in your life so you may make this a better community for all God’s people? Love God and your neighbor. Doing so can make a better world.
The Rev. David Kendall-Sperry is the rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 45 W. Winter St., Delaware, and can be reached at 740-369-3175. A member of the Delaware Area Ministerial Association, he also serves on boards for Andrews House Community Center and the Men’s Shelter of Delaware County. He has three adult children and three grandchildren, and lives with his wife in Westerville.