As the outgoing commissioner noted in his final public meeting on June 25, stormwater management is a big problem facing the borough. In his view, the disputes surrounding Bancroft property development are a blip compared to property ravaged by storms.
From a practical standpoint, he is likely correct. But Bancroft, in the grand scheme of things, is lost in angry words from people who seem irreconcilable because they are so deeply enjoying the fight. Therefore resolving Bancroft is the touchstone before getting any other major work done in borough governance.
My personal motto is “think locally, act globally.” Because of my local, national regional and international experience implementing and drafting laws across the globe, I believe there are lessons learned regarding capacity building that apply to Haddonfield.
There can be no gentrification in Haddonfield simply because we already are the gold standard, but can our neighbors and their children afford platinum instead?
Traditionally, Haddonfield has been the home of the next generation of successful professionals. However, our children face so much debt that it is not possible to afford Haddonfield unless they live with their parents.
This break from tradition means they cannot afford to live as comfortably as we did at the same age, and they do not have the resources to start a family because to do so requires a half-million dollars or no debt!
The fact that an interim commissioner has a fixed deadline to finish their work, means that negotiations must reflect the best possible progress in a defined time frame, and that component of a deadline is something that is lacking in current deliberations. Whomever is selected can credibly state that agreement must be reached and accepted before the elections, because afterwards, the appointee will not have the power to bring closure.
Imposing a deadline is only half the battle. The lead negotiator on behalf of the community must divine a method to apply a new interpretation of affordable housing laws that takes into account not merely gross income, but significant debt from student loans. The flexible criteria for including such net income expense is urgently needed because our children are moving away.
Thus the key to unlocking the Bancroft deadlock is opening the door to home ownership despite college debt.
How can we make local homeownership happen for the young generation, so that their children and grandchildren can have a great place to live?
Public confidence that Bancroft will out-price our status-conscious constituency and make living in Haddonfield even further beyond our children’s reach is an unstated fear. If retirees can’t afford buying into the new buildings, after a lifetime of savings, then surely debt-ridden young professionals cannot.
Self-interest dictates, therefore, creating affordable housing for Haddonfield’s children in the 21st century whose success is the key to our posterity. Society will pay dearly if we fail to address their unprecedented economic plight.
Dr. Ilise L. Feitshans