CHEER held its first idea jam on November 17, 2011 on the income gap in Takoma Park. After reviewing the statistics documenting a 50% increase in high income households, a 15% loss of middle income households, and a stable number of low income households over the last decade, the discussion began with the question “How does the income gap affect Takoma Park?” All twenty-one attendees participated in a lively and substantial exchange. Part way through Tebabu Assefa reframed the question in a much more useful way: “How do we sustain our diverse community?”
How does the income gap affect Takoma Park?
There is a loss of diversity, not just income diversity but also some racial diversity. Diversity is an asset because it contributes to innovation, change, and enrichment.
There are now more two income households than there used to be. This has affected community relationships and weakened connections among families in neighborhoods.
Under current economic conditions people with lower incomes are scared to go into home ownership because of the uncertainty of being able to keep their home.
Many middle income households can’t afford to move here.
The Income gap threatens to wipe out our collective sense of community.
Ideas for Action: “How do we sustain our diverse community?”
Create opportunities for shared housing situations, such as accessory apartments in single family homes.
Make information about affordable housing opportunities more available to people in the community and at local institutions, especially to teachers, police, and fire fighters. These opportunities arise during stress sales, such as foreclosures and condominium conversions.
Create a Community Development Corporation.
Enhance quality of existing lower income housing.
Reframe the question to” How do we sustain Takoma Park as a healthy diverse community that supports everyone’s ability to live and work here?”
Promote Takoma Park as a shining example of diversity.
Conduct community projects around shared values that get people to work together.
Make Takoma Park more accessible to the disabled.
Teach new home owners how to do repair and maintenance.
Provide more resources and services to people in their homes (enhance the community).
These ideas will be used in CHEER’s strategic planning process for selecting strategic actions that advance the community goal of sustaining a diverse and thriving Takoma Park community.
Among the twenty one participants were four Takoma Park City Council members, Terry Seamens, Reuben Snipper, Colleen Clay, and Dan Robinson. Linda Walker, from the City of Takoma Park’s Department of Housing and Community Development also contributed to the discussion. Thank you all for attending and contributing your valuable ideas.