By Leonard Ford
Some 10 years ago, Cecil Myers, then executive director of Innercity Revitalization Corporation, told the Public Works Committee of the Alexandria City Council that too many of Alexandria residents were living in houses that weren’t fit to call home. That sentiment remains true as many of Alexandria’s citizens, especially those living in the city’s black communities, are still living in houses that are so dilapidated and beyond repair that many of them look like they could topple over at any time. If you doubt me, ride through the Sonia Quarters, Samtown-Woodside, Lower Third, and Oil-Mill neighborhoods.
Ten years after Myers made that statement, several new housing developments (Oak Mount Village, Silverleaf, Pine Oak, Enterpirse Place, Riverbend Subdivision, Lawson Heights) have been built in Alexandria. These developments offer housing to those people who might not have otherwise been able to afford purchasing, leasing, or renting a home to better their living condition. Without these housing developments, many of those may be living in substandard housing.
I believe such housing developments are good for the residents of the city and the city itself. Living in a nice home with nice amenities improves a person’s self-esteem, improves their quality of life, and gives them the opportunity to take care of something for which they can be proud. When people vacate dilapidated and substandard houses, the city can come in, condemn them and tear them down. By doing so, the city can build better housing on the property.
With even more developers wanting to come to Alexandria to build these lease/purchase developments or add to existing ones, such as the planned expansion of Riverbend Subdivision that will include 10 duplexes, one would think that people in the communities where the housing developments will be built would be happy to have new housing locate there. That’s not the case. Opposition to that project has come from several residents and others, most notably from former police juror Joe Fuller, Sandra Bright, spokesman for Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens, and District 3 Councilman Jonathan Goins. All are concerned about flooding in the area. Fuller and Goins both stated that the duplex project, Riverbend 4, does not need to be built. Bright did not voice whether or not the expansion should be built, but she did express that she is worried about the new subdivision causing additional flooding problems on Seventh Street, which is already prone to flooding.
Is their concern about flooding their real reason for their opposition to the proposed new expansion, or could they have more underlying reasons for it? You may recall that Goins and Bright both opposed the city’s plan to build a gated rental apartment complex on the site of the former Dominique Miller Livestock Market, as both felt that more rental property wasn’t needed in the Lower Third community since the area already was inundated with an over abundance of rental property. Could this be why they and Fuller are against the Riverbend expansion? No one will know for sure, but it sure makes you wonder.
My view on the expansion of Riverbend and any other new housing developments that may be built in Alexandria is this: This city needs new affordable housing for which it citizens can choose to live. Just as we want to live in a nice home that we can afford to either purchase or rent, those citizens who are now living in some old dilapidated house want that same opportunity, and building new affordable housing is the best way to give them that opportunity. We must also remember that everyone does not have the finances to build or purchase a home. That is good for those who can afford it, but for others, their only option of living in a nice home is by renting. We all should be thrilled that new housing is coming to our communities.
And yes, most of the new housing developments are predominately being built in Alexandria’s black communities. What’s the problem with that since that is where the largest concentration of people living in substandard housing live.
With any new development and construction, there is bound to be some opposing points and views. Sometimes we have to overlook the bad to see and realize the good. We should think about that before we go about opposing something.