Belle Steadman Answers Our Questions
Taxes, Development, and Housing
QUESTION 1 – Salem’s tax rate, both residential and commercial, has consistently gone up around 2% every year. Do you feel that this “stability” best serves the city, or should we take another approach? Please be specific as to the impact on city services that your approach would bring.
Tax rate that has consistently increased around 2% every year, although an earmark of economic stability in some communities, here in Salem, it is a source of unrest among the taxpayers because there’s hardly no obvious improvement, what with the state of our public school system, our roads are terrible , some areas in our city have no sidewalks or present sidewalks are considered hazardous. Our tax money should be use more in an aggressive effort to reform our school system because if we do, the city is bound to attract families with school-aged children. The more kids go to our public schools, the more teachers and support staff are needed. The need for housing follows— bringing in high demands for rental or home ownerships. And certain businesses flourish. Education policy reform is one of the major catalysts for community development. Economy is good only when folks are contented where they are.
QUESTION 2 – Salem has, and is, undergoing a long-term development boom that has impacted every neighborhood in the city. Should Salem take steps to slow development?
If development revives and/or revitalizes a neighborhood and welcomes diversity at the same time preserving the historical aspect of the neighborhood, then it is a wonderful thing. Development only becomes a culprit when overbuilding happens in congested area or when low-income families, veterans and seniors can’t afford to stay put because of gentrification. Once started, development is hard to slow down especially when there are deadlines to meet or if there is a high demand for it. However, there is a need to vary plans and strategies before developing a neighborhood depending on the conditions of the neighborhood. For example, a neighborhood about to be gentrified may need special intervention to avoid displacement or to discourage large numbers of existing residents from moving out. We can emulate our neighboring towns like Saugus, Peabody and Danvers where they have put development on hold until they have assessed whether further development is needed.
QUESTION 3 – Entry level workers, lower income families, hospitality employees, and seniors find Salem to be an unaffordable place to live. How can we best plan to meet the housing needs across all demographics in Salem?
The housing issue is a complicated matter with many variables and there is no single answer that will begin to address the issue both in the short and long term.
Tax credits, rental capping (such as that proposed in one of the cities in California), our ALAs (Accessory Living Area) proposals or looking into solutions to homelessness and housing poverty that are encapsulated in the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) policy priorities for 2019:
• “Protecting, expanding and monitoring the implementation of the national Housing Trust Fund
-The national HTF is the first new federal housing resource in a generation exclusively targeted to build and preserve housing affordable to people with the lowest incomes.
• Preserving and increasing resources for federal affordable housing programs serving extremely low- income families.
-Without government intervention, decent and affordable homes cannot be reliably built, operated, and maintained at a price that the very lowest-income workers, seniors, or people with disabilities can afford.
• Ensuring federal disaster recovery efforts are fair and equitable;
-One of the top priorities after a disaster is making sure that all displaced families have safe, accessible, and affordable places to live while they get back on their feet.
• Promoting equitable access to affordable housing;
-NLIHC believes in just communities, where all community members have access to economic and educational opportunities, as well as affordable housing.
• Championing anti-poverty solutions
-Beyond ensuring access to affordable housing, Congress should pass other legislation to increase and protect resources that alleviate poverty. NLIHC supports efforts to protect vital safety net programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Affordable Care Act, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Moreover, NLIHC supports efforts to increase the minimum wage and to target federal resources to communities with persistent poverty.”
These are all worth looking into.
Bottomline is, all residents should have a roof over their heads and should have a say in any of the proposals pertaining to housing.
Editors Note: We have added quotations to the answer to Question 3. The candidates was citing the policy priorities of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. These quotations, originally used by the candidate, were omitted due to an editorial error.