Huntsville is spending a million to recruit "talent" to work in Rocket City. Yet, the affordable housing problem persists and very little is said about how the city will accommodate residents of lower socioeconomic status aside from moving them around amidst the influx of transplants.
AL.com reported that Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle recently spoke in the "State of the City" address, in which the mayor shared that one of the biggest challenges is the shortage of workers. He shared that in order to fix this challenge, Huntsville will spend a million to "attract workers to the area."
Mayor Tommy Battle said about the worker shortage:
“The jobs that are sitting right here and we are still waiting to fill. You could talk to Toyota Motor Manufacturer, talk Mazda Toyota, or talk to Polaris they’re all looking for workers [who] are looking for people to fill those jobs.” -Tommy Battle, Mayor of Huntsville (Source: WHNT 19 News)
The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce has launched a website for the "smart place to live" campaign, which is a digital advertising campaign to reach their intended demographics. The funds are being split between a North Alabama campaign, and a national campaign. (Source: WHNT 19 News)
It's great that Huntsville can boast so many accolades, such as "Best Place to Live," "Best Place to Raise a Family," "Top Leading Metro for Business," etc., but affordable housing is still an issue.
The only problem that no one is talking about is that Huntsville has an affordable housing shortage, and the route the city is going down is to quickly build mixed-use residential and commercial properties. In many cases, the rent and leases on these properties cost more than a mortgage in many places.
Huntsville Simply Lacks Affordable Housing
I wrote a previous article on the lack of affordable housing here, which goes into depth about how Butler Terrace and Butler Terrace Addition housing complexes are being demolished so the Mill Creek Choice Neighborhood mixed-use project and the former residents will be given Section Eight vouchers to try and find a place to live elsewhere in the city.
Then, after the 1,000-unit Mill Creek Choice Neighborhood is built, 60% will be at market rate, and the remaining 40% will be under the direction of Huntsville’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Displacing low-income residents to make way for a wealthy neighborhood is what happens with gentrification. The lower-income residents that are trying to find a new residence may encounter landlords that aren't willing to accept Section Eight vouchers or even neighborhoods that don't want to accept residents from a lower economic status, fearing that it will bring crime. These people are sometimes referred to as n.i.m.b.y.'s or "not in my backyard" residents.
With all that being said, what do you think will happen as Huntsville continues to grow, attracting talent from all over the country?
The influx of transplants will affect the housing available.
Housing will become more and more scarce, and the people that will lose, are those that already can't afford what is available. It is easy for city officials to forget that people that can't break through income barriers don't have the same resources as those with adequate income to survive.
It's time we hear a housing plan that is dedicated to low-income families that need a safe place to live, and the rent will not be out of reach to make ends meet.
In addition, I think we need to focus on helping the children of these lower-income families get the best education possible so they can reach their full potential and have a successful life.
Huntsville, AL: Smart Place to Live campaign official website.
Neal, Madison. "Huntsville spends $1 million to recruit people to live and work in the city." WHNT 19 News. 7 December 2022.
Article referenced: "Despite Many Urban Growth Projects, There is a Growing Concern About the Lack of Affordable Housing in Huntsville, AL." Newsbreak. 1 November 2022.