Happy holiday, everyone! As I’ve mentioned many times, Martin Luther King Day is my absolute favorite holiday, because it’s all about celebrating justice and equality and community. So today is the perfect day for me to share my interview with Estela Ortega, a woman who has spent her life fighting for justice and building community. Estela is the executive director of El Centro de la Raza (“the center for people of all races”), a revered institution that has been serving the Latinx community — and many others — in Seattle for over 45 years.
There are many things I could have talked to Estela about, but the focus of this interview was El Centro’s recent success building affordable housing — across the street from a light rail station — in a city that is rapidly becoming the exclusive domain of the rich. Without access to housing, there can be no community. And, in the absence of a government response our city’s housing crisis, we will need more organizations to learn from El Centro’s example and extend their service to the community by providing quality, affordable homes in every neighborhood.
To learn more about El Centro’s founding, listen to Episode 2 of Remember, my interview with Larry Gossett.
Yesterday, BeyondChron had an interesting piece about the connection between climate change and affordable housing. Some excerpts:
Despite the media focusing largely on climate change strategies like ethanol and composting, combating sprawl appears to be one of the efforts offering the most bang for the buck. For starters, cars produce almost a third of the carbon emitted in America. Allowing people to live close to their jobs, grocery stores, parks and schools means dramatically shortened commute times and significantly reduced carbon emissions.
In addition, increasing density means taking advantage of public infrastructure already in place. Rather than extending sewer, water, road and electric [and transit!] systems farther and farther away from the city center, using the already existing systems increases their efficiency and reduces the need for more resources to expand them.
As demand increases for urban housing, costs go up, often dramatically in many places in recent years. While cities may have won the battle in bringing people in, they’ve also succeeded in forcing people out. Low-income and working-class people in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York keep moving farther and farther away from their jobs, making sprawl worse, not better.
This article is right on time. Growth management must include a strong focus on in-city, affordable housing. Without it, we’ll never create a transit- (or, for that matter, people-) friendly region.