Birmingham’s master plan
Lisa Brody’s analysis of “Urban Planning Trends and Birmingham’s New Master Plan” explains Birmingham’s traditionally restricted housing.
“Zoning,” she writes, “was often used as a means of enforcing racial segregation. Neighborhoods filled only with single family homes were meant to keep suburbs white.” The outcry against multi-unit, affordable housing springs, at least in part, from this same unfortunate history and its outdated dog whistles about “property values,” which Brody’s research on the economic enhancement that multi-unit residences bring to our tax base lays, at last, to rest.
For many of us, the money we used to buy our homes came from equity built up over generations. Grandparents who were veterans of World War II got an economic foothold when the GI Bill covered their educational expenses. But only if they were White. Loans and home insurance helped them buy single-family houses. But only if they were White.
My middle-class family has lived in Birmingham since 1958 and is dismayed that it is less and less affordable. We cherish variety in income and race and welcome diversity in our neighbors. That is why I am excited about the new plan for multi-unit housing along our major boulevards.
Kudos to Lisa Brody, the planning board, and city manager Tom Markus for their understanding that this kind of housing will attract younger families, improve our tax base, and bring Birmingham up to date with the vibrant diversity that is America today.
Dr. Annis Pratt