February 9, 2008

Housing costs and transportation costs

This morning's Journal continues their Touched by Poverty series, looking at the cost of housing. I'm happy to see that they recognize the cost of transportation as a critical related factor:

"Students of housing policy would point out that housing is not so much a product as it is a process: employment, transportation," Laquatra said. "So do you attack the problem through job training programs and give people the skills to increase their access to resources? You can't look at housing in isolation."

Transportation is one of the key issues to keeping some people off the streets and out of shelters, Ward said.

People can find affordable housing in the county's outlying areas of Groton, Freeville, Danby or Dryden, but without reliable transportation for late and early work shifts, getting back and forth to a job in the city becomes difficult.

"We can get them an apartment in Groton, we can get them to work, but we can't get them home," Ward said.

It is a struggle that Sandra Carpenter knows all too well.

"I'm dealing with that right now," said Carpenter, who was living in the Red Cross' emergency shelter in early January. "In the outskirts you do not get early bus services to commute to work on time. I reassured my boss right now that I was going to stay in the City of Ithaca so that I could get back and forth to work. Between the housing cost and bus lines that run outside the city, it's ridiculous. You can't live outside the city if you want to work inside the city."

Carpenter works as a housekeeper for the Holiday Inn, earning $7.25 an hour.

Her shift starts at 8 a.m., but the buses don't run from Dryden and Freeville early enough for her to get to work, she said.

Even where I am, on Route 366 and the 43 line, you can't leave here before 7:20am or leave Ithaca after 6:30pm, and there's no weekend service.

I worry that our lack of attention to affordable housing in this county for the past few decades has created an even larger problem - we concentrated cheap housing in Dryden's trailer parks, in places without a lot of surrounding services or jobs. Now the cost of gas is climbing. The parks don't have great bus service either, and as the cost of gasoline climbs, lots of people are going to have a much harder time getting around.

Talking about low-income housing and busing seems to bother a fair number of people, even some elected officials, who seem to think that transportation people can afford creates problems. Somehow we need to get past that, and figure out ways to make it possible for the people who work in Tompkins County to live in Tompkins County. We have 11,000 in-commuters now, and while I'm sure that some of them are enjoying palatial homes on far-off hillsides, I'm guessing that none of them are happy about their increasing transportation costs. We could reduce a lot of those costs if we were willing to look at ways to improve the bus system and ways to improve housing for all income levels in Tompkins County.

(Joe Laquatra, cited in the article above, is also on the Town of Dryden Planning Board, which gives me a little more hope for the future. The Journal also notes County Planning's interest in these issues, which would be great if they were better at connecting with and listening to communities.)

They also have articles on home ownership classes, housing for the elderly, possible ways to address transportation issues, comparing the cost of buying and renting, how heating costs factor in, some statistics on housing, and income eligibility for public housing.

There's an article on postcards of Tompkins County that shows a 1914 view of Main Street in the Village of Dryden that's worth contrasting with today's torrent of cars passing through.

In college news, the Journal reports that Sharon Andrus of Freeville earned a doctorate from SUNY Albany in history-public history.

There's also an article in the Journal about cutting the costs of special districts that I don't think applies to Dryden. We have plenty of special water, sewer, and lighting districts but the Town Board administers them, not a separately paid board. The McLean Fire District covers the northeast corner of the town, but they have elected Fire Commissioners.

Posted by simon at February 9, 2008 9:16 AM in , , ,
Note on photos