Junior launches student branch of Legacy Park Affordable Housing Project

On Oct. 8, junior Sage Arnold launched the student branch of the Legacy Park Affordable Housing Project in support of the plan maximizing the construction of affordable housing at Legacy Park, with 174 units, in light of recent groups organizing against the housing addendum. Three weeks before, she launched a petition to the City of Decatur Commissioners to also voice support of the maximum affordable housing units at the park.

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To lead the branch, Arnold began by presenting to a group of about 20 students on the importance of affordable housing to strengthen and preserve diversity in Decatur. Going forward, she plans to lead these students in drafting an official proposal on Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, before presenting to the city government in the Oct. 24 City Commissioner meeting.

According to Arnold, Decatur prides itself on its diversity, but it doesn’t really live up to that standard. Her presentation centered around looking at “problematic” statistics, taken from the Decatur 2018 census, and how affordable housing could address them. She emphasizes the importance of providing housing for people of lower economic status.

Through talking with teachers, Arnold has learned of the difficulty to afford a home in Decatur on their salary. She believes it’s important for City of Decatur employees, like teachers and police officers, and other Decatur workers, who don’t earn the area median income, to be able to live in Decatur. 

“These are the types of people who are contributing the most to Decatur… and they aren’t being paid enough to be able to afford houses or even apartments in Decatur,” Arnold said. “It’s not like these people can’t get promotions to be able to get a home in Decatur, but these are generalizations that I found and made based on my research.”

In the proposal, Arnold and students will stress the need to prioritize affordable housing at Legacy Park; due to limited space in Decatur, there won’t be options “to be able to build affordable housing complexes at this level,” she said. 

Arnold became interested in housing at the park due to her connections with those involved in planning it: her dad serves on the Legacy Park Project Board, and the Chair of the board, Mayor Pro-Tem Tony Powers is a close family friend. 

As part of Decatur Youth Council (DYC), she is able to communicate her efforts to city officials and leaders of her group more easily.