Your Views: Race and housing

Your Views: Race and housing
Townhouse units at Olde Towne West

To the editor:

Mayor Justin Wilson seems obsessed with race as his go-to reason for one of his ill-conceived policy proposals. In fact, his generally unchallenged comments on race are often directed at the community of homeowners as the predicate for increased density.

Wilson once compared Alexandria to apartheid-era Johannesburg, South Africa. Continuing that theme, his comments quoted in a recent ALXNow article are astonishing in three ways: the lack of factual basis to support his opinions, the absence of anyone questioning him and the implied accusation that anyone who wants to preserve a single-family home neighborhood is doing so simply for racist reasons. In the article, Wilson said.

“The other thing that’s important to note, and I try to talk about this as well: there is a racial equity piece of this as well. A lot of our zoning tools in place today were put in place to achieve some pretty horrible ends. They serve to reinforce racial segregation and housing access. That is absolutely true in Alexandria. It is not an accident that today if you took a look at an Alexandria zoning map and a map that maps racial demographics of our city, those maps nearly match. That’s not an accident, and people don’t like when I point that out, but there is a lot of commonality between those maps.”

Which specific zoning tools is he talking about that are “in place today” and “were put in place to achieve some pretty horrible ends?” Today’s tools, not those put in place in 1950, but those tools in place today. He speaks to a correlation between today’s zoning maps and today’s racial demographics, but he cannot draw any sort of straight line between the two. If he could, he certainly would. Correlation means little without an understanding of causality.

The only barriers, today, to living in any particular neighborhood in this city, are an individual or family’s own neighborhood preferences such as proximity to work and schools, whether there are amenities nearby and preference on style and size of the home – and their ability to afford the mortgage and property taxes in places that meet their other criteria. There are no other barriers, period.

Today’s zoning provisions certainly present no barrier whatsoever. That’s been proven true in my neighborhood, and it’s likely true in yours too.

-Bill Rossello, Alexandria