On Wednesday, April 28, over 80 people participated in the program “Who Lives in Winchester? Housing Options – Past and Future.” This was the first of a two-part series brought forth by a collaboration between the Network, Planning Board, and the Housing Partnership Board. A recording and comprehensive slide deck are being prepared and will be disseminated to all who registered to attend.
The program started with a land acknowledgement, recognizing that Winchester is on the ancestral homeland of the Massachusett people and it is our responsibility to promote equity in living up to their example. It ended with a snapshot of present-day Winchester, underscoring the need for diversifying our housing stock, as the town would need to build about 600 subsidized housing units to reach the state’s minimum criteria.
Diab Jerius, Chair of the Planning Board, provided a powerful history of the systemic factors that resulted in and sustain racial inequities in housing, including early land use ordinances, exclusionary zoning, redlining, and race-based federal loan policies. One participant noted: “I had no idea how maps made in the 1930’s have such an impact on how we live today.”
Moving from the systemic to the personal, two long time Winchester residents shared their experiences. Harris Gibson recounted how he telephoned a builder one Saturday morning in 1974 to express interest in buying one of the homes he was building. The man, from whom Johnson Road was named, said that he would welcome a doctor buying one. When Harris, who is Black, showed up in person several hours later, Mr. Johnson told him that all of the homes were sold and nothing was available. Allan Rodgers recounted how many realtors were not interested in working with his local nonprofit, which assisted people of color in buying homes in Winchester.
The series continues Wednesday, May 26th at 7:30 pm with a look at strategies for change and ways to move forward. One participant wrote “I am appalled at the impact of our government’s policies. We all need to work harder to make some changes.” We hope this series prompts community engagement and grassroots efforts toward housing equity. You can register for Part II here. All registrants will receive a recording of the first program along with the comprehensive slide deck and additional resources. For more information or to provide feedback, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.