Raleigh Town Planning Commissioner responds to comments from council member she calls “offensive and hurtful”
During a discussion at a working session of Raleigh City Council On the provision of city-owned lots for affordable rental housing yesterday, District A council member Patrick Buffkin recalled the first meeting of council’s second term in January.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel spoke to council members about the merits of financing affordable housing by blending revenues into new residential developments to cover the costs of operating some affordable housing, Buffkin said.
And then, whether consciously or not, Buffkin made insensitive comments about places “that are only home to the poor.”
“Another benefit of having mixed income in these developments is that you are building a healthier community,” Buffkin said towards the end of the meeting. “What Mayor Schewel said when he spoke to us was, ‘Don’t build projects that only house poor people.’ These are hopeless places, there are very few role models for the children who live there and a much better way for the community is to have this mix of income, people from different backgrounds, people of different means who help each other to learn to live together. “
Buffkin added that he believes mixed income developments “are really the best fit for Raleigh.”
“It works financially, it also works for the community, so I think it’s a good role model to follow,” he said.
This afternoon, Nicole Bennett, city planner, member of the Raleigh Planning Commission and longtime city resident, commented in a statement to the mayor and council which she also posted on social media .
“These statements are not only offensive and hurtful, they perpetuate the narrative that the poor lack morals and values,” Bennett wrote. “This is just not true. The poor lack financial resources. Period.”
Bennett added that while she is aware of the problems associated with the concentration of low-income people in developments such as “old-fashioned public housing projects (or” projects “),” she says they are not. not the problematic people.
“The problem is the environment,” she writes. “The problem, often, is that the people who live in these communities are pushed aside and forgotten. The developments were not built to encourage the community. They were built to caging humans considered wild and unworthy by policies designed to marginalize poor people, especially poor people of color. “
Later in the letter, Bennett wrote that it is “disturbing and hurtful to hear a counselor denigrate the hard-working poor – many of whom are in the position they find themselves in because of a system rigged on them.” .
“To suggest that simply adding people with higher incomes in one way or another will help their moral character is offensive and reinforces many racist nuances on which many of our policies, programs and procedures center,” Bennett wrote.
Board member David Cox, who generally disagrees with most other board members, also responded to Buffkin’s comments on his social media page.
“It’s a myth that must stop the poor (and maybe people of color) being untrustworthy and being bad role models,” Cox wrote on his Facebook page. “This absolutely must stop and it is indefensible and disappointing to hear such opinions expressed by our board of directors.”
the INDY requested permission to publish Bennett’s letter in its entirety. We have also reached out to Board Member Buffkin for comment. You can watch the meeting here; Buffkin’s commentary video begins at around 1:12:50.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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