A leap from fear of change to demonization

'It is not the business of Windham-Windsor Housing Trust to solve Putney's problems with respect to policing, worsening mental health, the opioid epidemic, cavernous income disparity, crying needs for funding public education, roads, and fire and emergency services'

Lisa Chase is a Putney resident.

In response to Mark Borax:

Yes, Josh Laughlin was a co-owner of the Alice Holway property held by a consortium known as Gateway and sold to Windham-Windsor Housing Trust (WWHT). And yes, Josh Laughlin was on the Putney Selectboard, and yes, Josh Laughlin properly recused himself from any town business having to do with the Gateway/WWHT matter.

This simple, compelling, and entirely sufficient fact is not difficult to determine. Do your research, sir, and you would additionally discover that it was the Development and Review Board and the Planning Commission that were responsible for legally permitting this WWHT project.

Josh Laughlin did not sit on either one of these groups.

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While you're at it, familiarize yourself with when and how it came to pass that Gateway came to form itself and acquire this piece of property on I-91, Route 5, and the entrance to the village of Putney.

Look around you, sir, and make note of so many Interstate exits and the kind of development that so often occurs there. Putney has a food co-op, the Yellow Barn Music School and Festival, a private residence, a senior housing project, a farmers market, and a community garden - so far - instead of a quick mart, a dollar store, a Dunkin Donuts.

All on land that was once a nationally known wildflower nursery. To vilify Gateway is to let no good deed go unpunished.

* * *

The assumption that anyone and everyone who might seek housing in any WWHT housing is "indigent, at-risk, homeless and poverty-stricken" is a blinkered response to a potential population, at best. Those labels make an assumption about people not yet arrived that sounds classist and phobic at worst.

Furthermore, none of those labels should be considered a negative - they are just a neutral fact of all sorts of fellow citizens' lives that begs for amelioration.

But apart from that, the housing currently planned for Alice Holway Drive is a mixed-income project.

Go to the WWHT website and do your research, sir.

* * *

You are correct that zoning adjustments were made. These were made in duly warned public meetings. If the process was, in fact, illegal as this piece asserts, then the several court cases brought to expose it should have discovered it.

Should it be determined to be the case, we Putney residents must respect the findings of the law, as we must now in its current status.

If we don't like an outcome, we work to change the law - not defy or deny it.

* * *

The costs for a housing project of this scale do seem astronomical. The financing for such endeavors is hard for the layperson to understand but by doing some research, this spider web of entities that work together to successfully underwrite projects of this scope can be understood - and in the process one can learn to appreciate the darker sides of "uncompassionate" capitalism.

Take this up with your state and federal legislators, and until they have clarified, unwound, cleaned up, and "fixed" this money-changing quagmire, do not lay this spider web at WWHT's feet.

The WWHT is working within the existing system, as it are charged to do. If there are "billion dollar corporations" getting richer, as you say, you should name those entities and not turn your criticisms into a flawed ad hominem attack on a nonprofit housing trust.

* * *

As to the costs - if you had to build the home you yourself live in now, whatever it is - could you do it? You would be unhappily surprised at how much it costs to raise any building today.

More research might lead you to an article in Seven Days that came out in September that estimates the cost to build a modest apartment or small home at $500,000. This puts this WWHT project in line with the average cost to build in Vermont.

Yes, beyond belief, but believe it.

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The delays visited on the current project on Alice Holway Drive in Putney have already raised the costs for this project by millions of dollars.

The need for housing across the socioeconomic spectrum has only grown.

* * *

It is not the business of WWHT to solve our town's problems with respect to policing, worsening mental health, the opioid epidemic, cavernous income disparity, crying needs for funding public education, roads, and fire and emergency services. The charge for WWHT is to finance and build affordable housing, which it has been doing for decades.

It is our job to wrestle with all of the contingent problems of social and cultural issues, in any way we can, big or small.

Join a town committee, run for something, volunteer on the fire department, if you have a skill they could use. Work to fix root causes.

* * *

Any of us who has ever rented has doubtless rarely loved our landlord. Without our landlords, what would we rent? Is this a "love it or leave it" challenge?

Maybe. If there were more housing stock, folks could pick and choose.

* * *

Finally: This Viewpoint is similar to others that appear here every few months. They are surprisingly the same. They are leaky vessels - their arguments do not hold water. They reveal a fear of change that reverts to demonization and seeks an "enemy." This fear response is at the root of all "-isms."

Putney is a pretty diverse town - the socioeconomic spectrum is already here. By all means, make room in your own backyard for a tenant if you can make the money work out. What's not to applaud about the progressive legislation this state offers to encourage this? And hats off to you for mentioning solutions!

Can we assume that you will find an "indigent, at-risk, homeless, or poverty-stricken" individual who does not inspire fear in you to compassionately house?

This Voices Response was submitted to The Commons.

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