Fluet for Durham
Ward 2 Candidate for City Council

The Issues

Where Fluet Stands

Housing, City Planning and Neighborhoods

In the second portion of the PA Pac questions we focus on Housing, City Planning and Neighborhoods

 

What does “gentrification” mean to you?  What, if anything, should be done about it? How, if at all, is the issue of gentrification implicated in the Planning Department’s current review of zoning in East Durham, the proposed creation of an Alston Avenue Design District, and the redevelopment of the former Fayette Place property? 

Gentrification is a double edged sword. Gentrification can lead to a flood of private dollars for improvement in a specific district, but the side effect is those district’s previous residents are pushed out due to rising costs in rent. The danger is the history, the fabric of the individual neighborhoods is lost as rising rent and taxes push out the existing ecosystem. While we consider the gains in property values (and property tax receipts), we must also consider the impacts it has on the individuals effectively pushed out of their homes. We have to remember, once again, that a City should not be measured by the number of Millionaires in the city limits, but by how it’s weakest and most vulnerable are treated.

Regarding East Durham, I believe the Planning Department is doing it’s job. They are tasked with researching, and recommending actions for potential rezoning. While a decision has not yet been finalized, I do empathize with the residents asking, after all this time of being ignored by the city, why the focus on rezoning our home now? There is absolutely a threat of long term residents being pushed out of that neighborhood with the completion of 147 expansion and a possible light rail. We must find a way to compromise with those who have been there, as well as have an eye for the future. We must ensure that any rezoning encourages affordable housing.

Alston Avenue faces a similar situation, with the potential addition of a light rail station and the close proximity to NCCU this is a location that is rife for development. While the development may bring positive aspects including new jobs and new transportation options for the city. The potential to be a light rail ride away from downtown may prove to be far too tempting, we must realize how quickly the property values and rents will become far too expensive for the existing homeowners and residents. I do not believe there is enough of a focus on providing, and requiring affordable housing for our residents of Alston Avenue.

The city council recently (June) approved the grant to repurchase Fayette Place by the Durham Housing Authority, and gives the city the the right to veto the next sale of the property. My goal for Fayette Place would be to build an affordable housing development  that is built by a not for profit developer. I want a new development to be a beacon for affordable housing for cities to point to as an example of how to help the citizens, and how we can fight back against the gentrification crisis.

 

What should the city seek to accomplish through its power to stimulate and regulate growth?  What principles and considerations will guide your decisions in zoning cases and other development issues?  Illustrate your answer with a recent controversial zoning case.  Did the city decide the case correctly? 

I think it is the responsibility of elected officials to remember their constituents, but to keep in mind the constituents of the future. One of the most dangerous phrases anyone ever states is, “we do it this way because that’s how it’s always been done.”

I will lean extremely heavily on groups such as the Planning Commission, the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit, as well as the public. I will personally hold rallies, meetings and coffee hours for residents to come meet with me to share their feelings. We must ensure that we are listening to our residents challenges, consider the impact decisions will make on them, and help build a vision of a Durham that works for all.

Data is extremely important to me, as I am a pragmatic thinker. I will promise that just because something is the right decision for today it does not necessarily guarantee that it is the right decision for the future. By tapping into the minds of our residents and reviewing all available data I will make efforts to ensure my decisions are fair and that the benefits of my decisions reach as many residents as possible. I want to contribute to the growth of a city where everyone’s lives are improved in one fashion or another.  

Let’s look at the most recent controversy regarding zoning: North River Village. It’s very clear to me that the people who live in the area historically have made it a suburban home center. While arguments made in support of the development included great points such as an influx of new jobs to the area as well as infrastructure improvement, I step back and say, does this make sense today? It did not. North River’s surrounding area  has historically been a residential area and I believe that there was not enough support by the public to make the change.  Maybe one day in the future as our city population expands, but that is not a necessity as of yet.

 

Does the city adequately fund its affordable housing plan?  If no, what funding are you willing to fight for in the next budget for affordable homes for lower income Durham renters, homebuyers and homeowners?  Where will the money come from? 

I currently believe that the city council is attempting to make progress in its plans to  fund affordable housing with the newly approved budget. I do not believe that it is enough for our citizens.

The current property tax increase should average out to about $38 / household in the upcoming fiscal year (based on a $200,000 valuation).  While the doubling of the affordable housing allocation is commendable, where would a 3rd penny have gotten our citizens. Imagine if we could have tripled our budget instead of just doubling it.

While reviewing newly developed neighborhoods a proposal I would want considered is, for areas that have created gentrification and have  pushed out the original residents a percentage of those new property taxes would be earmarked to increase our budget for affordable homes for both renters and homebuyers in Durham. 

Under what circumstances would you vote to approve a rezoning that does not include commitments to meet the city’s affordable housing goal?  If you answered yes, how would you ensure that the city meet its goal?  Please illustrate your answer with a recent case.

I would not vote to approve a rezoning that did not include commitments to meet the city’s affordable housing goal.  I don’t set goals to just to have a goal. I set goals to achieve them.

 

 

Robert Fluet