Pro: Should Orinda Support Low Income Housing?

Rebecca Gluck, Staff Writer

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Residents must be open to the idea of low-income housing in Orinda and understand the benefits that it would bring to the community.
The state of California requires that each local government’s housing plan satisfies the needs of all economic classes. Although it is a state law, the building of low-income units depends mostly on the willingness of residents to comply. In Orinda’s case, implementing this would allow less wealthy families to enjoy the opportunities Orinda has to offer, such as high-performing schools and its convenient location within the Bay Area.
Low-income housing would increase diversity, especially economic diversity, something Orinda lacks. Diversity allows individuals to experience what the demographics of society are really like, and they are therefore able to be more empathetic, more effective voters, and better-informed individuals. Kids should grow up aware of the world outside of the “Orinda bubble” in order to become well-rounded citizens.
It’s important that less wealthy students be integrated into Orinda schools. A study done in Washington D.C. showed that low-income students performed better in a school with upper class students than they did in a school with mostly low-income students. We also need individuals with different upbringings than us to contribute different ideas to our society.
If less affluent students acquire the skills they need to be productive, they will be productive citizens. In the long run, this means they will contribute more to the public, both socially and economically, which would benefit everyone.
Because we live in a wealthy area, the state provides less funding for schools, so parents donate more money. Opponents of the housing unit fear that low-income families won’t donate as much money to the schools, causing the wealthier residents to donate more or settle for less funding. However, the percentage of low-income households would be so small that their lesser donations would barely make a difference.
Orindans who oppose low-income housing also justify their opinions by claiming that it will upset the small-town, rural feel of Orinda. They are worried about less wealthy people overrunning the town and taking away from the distinguished and privileged atmosphere. However, the increased diversity will only benefit the community.
Houses in Orinda are among the most expensive in the Bay Area. The Pine Grove site, located where the former sports field and Orinda Union School District Offices used to be, is one area that low-income families could live in. The city approved a 73-unit single-family residential plan on this site with eight of those units being affordable. Four of the 73 houses have been built so far.
If Orinda doesn’t carry out the housing element, money could be withheld from the road maintenance budget and local land use authority could be limited.
Affordable housing would only benefit residents, as well as improve the lives of low-income families. Orindans should be compelled to speak up for a change that has the potential to better our society, as they are the only people who can make it happen.

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