There’s an interesting brouhaha going on in St. Albert. Though St. Albert isn’t part of our fair city, the fracas is worth taking notice of.


The conflict there is one that has played out in Edmonton numerous times in the past. We should pay attention to the goings on in St. Albert because it is indicative of the manufactured challenges we face in trying to create an environmentally and economically sustainable city.


Here is the nature of the conflict in a nutshell. Habitat for Humanity wants to build a 58-unit townhouse project on a former school site. The intent is to build as many units as possible to help the maximum number of families. The mission of Habitat for Humanity is to create a world in which everyone has a safe and decent place to live.

 

The nearby residents are up in arms. They think they have the absolute right to decide what happens in their area. They insist the development will cause increased traffic, parking problems and a drop in their property values.


Sound familiar? They are the same issues that inevitably come up whenever a development of this type is proposed. These issues are also complete and utter hogwash.


At their core, these concerns are about wanting to keep certain kinds of people out of the neighbourhood. Traffic and parking concerns are convenient ways of disguising bigotry and elitism.


Let’s face it, in this society many people think there is something not quite right with those who need help in order to buy a home. For them, not being able to afford a $400,000 home is God’s way of punishing those who haven’t been adroit and adept enough to benefit from the free market system and his divine plan for their neighbourhoods should not be interfered with.


Habitat for Humanity is about home ownership, not about creating instant slums peopled by beer-swilling, TV-watching layabouts. To qualify for a Habitat for Humanity house you must be employed. You must work 500 hours at the site instead of providing a down payment. And you must agree to keep the home and yard in good condition and follow all the other policies of Habitat for Humanity.


Because the purchase of a house has been facilitated for them does not mean those who live in Habitat for Humanity houses will show any less pride of ownership than their more affluent neighbours.


– Terence Harding is a corporate communicator. He’s a keen observer of all things Edmonton; edmontonletters@metronews.ca.

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