I think it has been said a million times, but let’s begin with a quick review. Columbia, Maryland was born with two basic premises: First, a town that is planned from its outset would result in a better city. Not a perfect Utopia, but a better place for people. Second, Columbia welcomes people from all races, religions, ethnicities, and economic means. Diversity is a strength within, and throughout, this community.
These foundation pillars were tested last week during a Zoning Pre-Submission Hearing conducted by the Howard Hughes Corporation. As reported by Explore Howard and Columbia Patch, long time resident and Town Center Village Board member Joel Broida was quoted as follows:
"Putting in 817 units with rentals is like setting up a hotel," he said. "When you're a rental unit, you're transient. You do not become part of the neighborhood. Columbia is great, and I would hate to see it become a transient, hotel-like community."
Joel Broida, a Columbia resident since 1971, said he fears the bulk of 817 new residences could be rental homes.
Renters don't have the sense of investment in a community that homeowners have, Broida told Hughes officials.
"Renters don't have pride in the community," he said. "They aren't the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped."
Sadly, the singling-out of people who live in apartments as undesirable was picked up, and expanded upon, by a few pseudonymoniuos commenters online.
It is rare that I ever hear someone that has lived most of their life in the Next American City voice such clear prejudice against any component of the community. And to clarify just how sharp this derogatory language is, let us try and remove the economic status veneer from his statements:
"Putting in 817 units with
rentals[religious group]s is like setting up a hotel," he said. "When you're a rental unit[religious group], you're transient. You do not become part of the neighborhood. Columbia is great, and I would hate to see it become a transient, hotel-like community."
Renters[Ethnic group]s don't have pride in the community," he said. "They aren't the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped."
I believe that Columbia must be open to all people. That is a promise made at its founding and it is a promise that our generation must uphold. To pursue a policy going forward that Columbia will only be open to people with the financial deep pockets to put 20% down on a mortgage and have high FICO scores will result in a fast track to gentrification.
I think it is imperative to state that folks that live in apartments are much like any other component in our community. They are mothers and daughters, sons and fathers. They are our co-workers, retired folks and veterans. They are teachers and doctors, nurses and accountants. They work for the government and private industry. They are janitors and corporate executives. They pay taxes and worship with us in faith. They dine in the same restaurants, they vote in the same elections, and they attend Zoning Pre-Submission Meetings. They should not be the subject of scorn based on the fears and hate of anyone, no matter how long he has lived in Columbia, no matter his position in the community.