victoria oaks under construction
KING OF THE HILL — Earthmoving equipment works atop a mound of dirt at a West Volusia housing-construction site. But what about all those in Volusia County who aren’t “on top” in terms of wages? Columnist Mark Barker argues that the County Council should wake up to the ways in which rampant housing development has exacerbated the need for affordable housing, and should follow the recommendation of the nonprofit FAITH — Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony — to establish an affordable-housing trust fund. BEACON PHOTO/MARTIN O’CULL

Some Halifax area “movers and shakers” are of the opinion that if We, The Little People, change our negative attitudes, ignore the abject dysfunction that permeates local government, brush off the concerns of “naysayers,” join hands, and embrace the power of positivity, we will eventually come to accept the inconveniences, traffic gridlock and steady tax increases we face as the necessary byproducts of “progress.”

They tell us these civic incommodities are a small price to pay for the “success” we are all enjoying (you feel the success, right?) while a few fatbacks get filthy rich clear-cutting our natural places and throwing up wood-frame cracker boxes — “Starting from the low $300s.”

Donning rose-colored glasses and merely viewing problems through optimistic eyes never solves anything. In fact, given the serious threats to our quality of life, that strategy is delusional.

Besides, it is easy to have a cheerful outlook from the safety and opulence of a gated community.

Recently, FAITH — Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony — held its annual Action Assembly at the Daytona Beach Drive-In Christian Church, with remote viewing locations in Port Orange and Wild West Volusia.

As in years past, the faith-based group pushed for basic fairness in area living standards, once again calling for the establishment of a countywide housing trust fund to ensure adequate housing for working families displaced by the explosive growth our powers that be continue to rubber-stamp, as demanded by their political puppeteers.

In addition, FAITH is asking for a study to consider inclusionary zoning and “linkage fees” — a one-time impact fee assessed on new construction to mitigate the impact of the additional demand for affordable housing. This is considered blasphemy in this growth-at-all-cost environment.

FAITH is not asking for the world, just a leg up for those less fortunate who are struggling to meet the most basic of human needs — shelter, safety, water, food, rest — in a place where one in three rental families are severely cost-burdened, trapped in a wage-and-rental deficit that, according to FAITH, now exceeds a similar gap in the New York City and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

In a place where a basic one-bedroom apartment now demands an income of at least $17 an hour, far more than many could hope to make, FAITH is asking that $2.5 million of federal American Rescue Plan relief funds — a fraction of the Manna from Heaven that has been showered on Volusia County government — be placed in trust, then replenished with $1 million of public funds annually.

That’s not a lot to ask when you consider that we’ve coughed up:

• $4 million in economic incentives for the largest online retailer in the known universe on a promise of $15-an-hour warehouse jobs,

• a collective $40 million in “incentives” from Daytona Beach and Volusia County for One Daytona (a privately held retail complex where commercial tenants have had their own issues with exorbitant rental rates),

• $4.5 million in “grants” to Tanger Outlets,

• untold millions in city, county, and state spiffs, tax credits, and infrastructure for the heralded Brown & Brown headquarters,

• some $7.5 million in “tax breaks” for the developer of a proposed luxury apartment complex on Beach Street, etc., etc., etc.

It is generally accepted that one’s character is defined by how they treat people who can do nothing for them in return — and integrity is how we conduct ourselves when nobody is looking.

Well, everyone is watching how those we have elected and appointed to represent the interests of all residents respond to the basic needs of those who can do nothing for their political careers.

I hope you will join me in encouraging policymakers at all levels of government to pull their collective heads out of the sizable backsides of their political benefactors long enough to address the pressing (and growing) problem of affordable housing for struggling Volusia County families.

One way to help is by signing FAITH’s petition here:

On Tuesday, May 3, FAITH representatives will deliver the housing- trust-fund petition to the County Council, following a prayer vigil to be held outside the Hallowed Halls of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center that morning.

— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.


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