It's Reality Time - The Missourian: Opinion

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It's Reality Time

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Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 5:00 pm

There comes a time for the good of the community that reality needs to be recognized and acted upon when it comes to the future well-being of Washington. That reality is that we must address two major issues: Housing and annexation.

Those two issues can be closely related.

A reality is that Washington must encourage the type of housing that young couples can afford and allow them to reside here, rather that being forced to go to nearby communities. There are countless cases of young people who want to live in Washington but can’t afford the land on which to build a home, or can’t afford an existing residence. The answer is the building of small homes that are within the financial reach of young couples. Our zoning code should be flexible to meet this need and one that encourages builders rather than one that causes them to pause and become negative about building here. We are not promoting subsidized housing although we have some of that now and it does not appear to be a major problem.

What we would like to see is more housing on smaller lot sizes. Large lots add to building expenses and the cost to the home buyer. We have mature citizens in Washington who grew up in homes on smaller lots, and who lived in starter homes on smaller lots, before they could afford a larger home on a larger lot. Some of our residents have forgotten that and now want only homes on large lots. We have very fine subdivisions with large lots and large, attractive homes. It’s nice to have that situation all over town, but we are shutting the door to housing for young couples who can’t afford those kinds of homes at this stage in their lives. This is a segment of home buyers, or renters, who we must accommodate. To make a community whole, we need to make available smaller homes on smaller lots that young couples, or even middle age people who want to downsize, are interested in buying or renting.

The city, lending institutions and developers must work together to provide this type of housing.

That brings up annexation. Washington is years behind in annexation. Developers like city services. Our subdivision regulations must not be too restrictive to discourage developers. Our city officials must not be swayed by a vocal minority when it comes to working with developers. We need additional land in the municipal limits for housing developments. We realize that some nearby landowners are vocal about not wanting to “sell the farm” or even land for several lots. However, experience proves that attitudes in this regard change with time and other considerations.

The annexation plan the city is developing is reasonable. It hasn’t been adopted yet, but much study has gone into it. Actually, being in the city adds value to a home or landowner.

There are two sayings that we hate to hear. One is that I don’t want a subdivision near my home, it adds traffic, and might devalue my home. If one looks at the history of building in Washington, yes, there has been an increase in traffic just about all over in the city, especially near some of our industrial parks and commercial developments. But what would we be without those developments? As far as a devaluation factor overall with smaller homes, in or outside subdivisions, that has not occurred to nearby existing housing.

The other tormenting saying we’ve heard for too long is, “We can’t afford to live in Washington. It’s too expensive!” That has come chiefly from young couples.

We should be a well-rounded community that meets the housing needs of young people, and some elders, based on their income status. We owe that to the younger generation and to those couples who wish to downsize.

The one thing we don’t want to be is an elitist community in which we forget our past in housing and forget there are young people who want to live in the city but who are being excluded. We must recognize and meet their needs. Leadership is required to right ship Washington. If we don’t, the city is going to continue to lose young families. That doesn’t bode well for the future.

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