Dear Decaturish – I love Decatur, but Decatur doesn’t want me
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At the Decatur 2030 affordable housing panel, participants were broken into breakout groups to answer the city’s most pressing questions: are Decatur citizens willing to undergo a change in favor of affordable housing? Who do Decaturites want to live in our 4.5-mile city, if not its rapidly homogenizing, highly wealthy, increasingly white makeup?
Entering the breakout room, I dreamed of a compassionate conversation on equity and progress. Instead, reality hit me like a splash of cold water. The truth is: if you are not rich, Decatur does not want you here.
I listened as neighbors laughed and agreed with a local landlord’s take that “asking for affordable housing” was akin to “asking for free ice cream.” The troubles of city workers and restaurant employees who commute for hours to a town they cannot afford were dismissed as irrelevant because ‘people are happy to make the commute’ and ‘they can always just live in Belvedere Park.’ (Belvedere residents – you probably already knew what Decatur residents thought of you.) The only sympathetic thoughts were turned to local teachers, whom the group decided should have “some place” to live. Maybe a hole in the ground?
Exiting our Zoom-discussion, I thought of my family: almost entirely teachers and trade workers. Groups of people Decatur apparently has no desire to house within its borders. And I decided: Decatur, I love you. But perhaps I am better off somewhere that would love me and my family back.
With an ache in my heart,
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