Cary Africk: Wildwood is Tip of the Iceberg

The following is reprinted with permission from the Montclair Watercooler.

From Wikipedia:

“Because the density of pure ice is about 920 kg/m³, and that of sea water about 1025 kg/m³, typically only one-ninth of the volume of an iceberg is above water. The shape of the underwater portion can be difficult to judge by looking at the portion above the surface.”

Building houses on Wildwood is the tip of the iceberg.

We all want safe, adequate, housing that we can afford to live in. But not everyone thinks that their biggest housing problem is that they don’t live in a new house on Wildwood next to Brookdale Park. And that goes for people with low and moderate income.

Some are desperate to live in a neighborhood that is free from crime. Some want to live in a house that is not falling apart but is so because they can’t afford to fix it.

Some want the absentee landlord to repair the porch, the pipes, and the heating, or to repair the refrigerator that has been broken for the two weeks.

Some are “just starting out” and need help in finding a reasonably rental.

Some dream of a house of their own but truly don’t understand the economics and wish someone who help them learn.

Some have homes in foreclosure, and need help. Some just need a thousand dollars that they can’t send to the mortgage company that month because they have doctor bills to pay.

During the last few months I’ve been speaking with people who understand this. In particular I’ve been excited to learn about the work of HomeCorp, an organization that “sees” the iceberg and addresses the multiplicity of issues that are “housing” issues. An organization that has a track record of making a difference by actually doing things, rather than just talking about doing things.

The rush to think that two houses on Wildwood will solve all of our housing problems is wrong.

And the cut off of town support for HomeCorp is mind boggling. And it is hypocrisy.

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.


  1. Thank you Cary, How can we learn more about Homecorp and eventually help them to help out if some of us were to have the time and $$$ resources to do so?

  2. I have never understood why it is considered a shame that housing tends to follow like housing. Why do the rish have to live with each other? Why can’t they live with poorer people? To think that all sections of our diverse town should be equal in all respects is illogical. If Upper Mountain Ave had a modest 2-family house every 500 feet, or a 3 story apartment building every 1/2 mile, would there be the mansions we have now? Of course not. Are you surprised or chagrinned or disappointed that Upper Mountain Ave housing exists? Are you surpised that housing on lots of 25 to 40 ft wide and 100 ft deep with no driveways, attract low income buyers or landlords renting to the low end of the market? What if we re-drew the boundaries of the 4 wards to include an equal number of diverse properties? 4th ward should include the estate section, for example. I am sure we all wish for affordable housing someday for all who need it. But let us not be foolish. Look at the demographics of the many towns around us. We are by far the most diverse demographically of any and all. /(town).

  3. What’s the point of this, Cary? That the town should spend more money on Homecorp? That there’s hyprocrisy? On whose part–the towns? the taxpayers? the rich people who live in the first ward and don’t donate to Homecorp? Who ever said that the Wildwood houses would solve our affordable housing problem? That’s a straw man.

  4. If the housing in poor neighborhoods were made nice, the rents would go up and the poor would have to move out. Though I do understand the appeal of magic.

    Make neighborhoods safe, reduce crime, enforce codes. Those are the only roles of the government (regarding housing) in any neighborhood.

  5. I am wondering if there is a potential opportunity to link the current discussions on affordable housing strategies and the development implications from declining property values with the Master Plan historic preservation element.
    Specifically, is there a potential in leveraging AH and HP by buying historic properties and converting them to affordable housing, thereby creating an overall intrinsic value greater than the individual parts.
    While I envision a very limited opportunity, collaboration could offer a broader appeal both at the neighborhood and township levels. Depending on the potential properties, it could have indirect benefits to maintaining neighborhood character, open space and offer green benefits. Collaboration might provide access to new funding streams, foster better understanding of these initiatives, and attract additional assistance from within and outside the community.

  6. “Specifically, is there a potential in leveraging AH and HP by buying historic properties and converting them to affordable housing, thereby creating an overall intrinsic value greater than the individual parts.”

    Who would do the buying. I have a feeling that if developers could make money doing this, they would.

  7. Dear Frank & Frank,

    Very good ideas. And that’s my point, i.e. look at the total housing picture.

    Only thing is this: Wildwood is not about Affordable Housing. It’s about affordable housing in the first ward, on Wildwood.

    If the goal were “merely” affordable housing, and to do so in a way that would achieve maximum benefit to all, the potential solutions would be different.

    Talbot Street, for example, is ripe with opportunity. The township owned property is adjacent to several lots already for sale. A project that provided housing for multiple families is easily envisioned.

    Cary Africk

  8. What it’s about is a progressive liberal ideology. The mayor said as much. Once that’s recognized for what it is, we can lay blame or praise, oppose or support, or what have you. We’ll also stand a better chance recognizing it when it comes up again.

    You’d have made a better politician, Cary, had you identified what things were rather than the open question of what they were not.

    NOT opposing what ISN’T is not leadership.

  9. FrankGG – I thought you would like the idea.
    ROC – I’ll take your comment as a positive in that you didn’t categorically reject the idea. At least I have you thinking about it. So it’s a good day.

  10. I beg your pardon, Frank.

    Still the question remains, and it’s always the same rub in these schemes.

    1. who pays?

    2. how is it sustained?

    3. usually, unintended consiquences make things worse, how would this be different.

    Most often in life simply buying something for someone does nothing to solve the problem of why they can’t buy it for themselves in the first place.

    And before I’m savaged, I’m speaking of a level UP from emergency housing or the homeless or basic sustenance for the poor.

    I wish middle-class status could be legislated, but it cannot.

  11. Cary,
    Wildwood is about a lot of things. I don’t know what (or when) it’s final resolution will be.
    I’m not linking my idea to Wildwood. Your blog used Wildwood as a jumping off point for overall AH issues and HomeCorp funding. I’m just taking the discussion down a tangent – one that probably should involve HomeCorp as a key participant in any discussion.

  12. “It’s not about Money”
    Voting 5-2 at its February 7th meeting, the Township Council rode roughshod over the Wildwood and neighboring residents with their affordable housing resolution. Their rallying call was “it’s not about money.” Absurd. It was and is all about money. Affordable housing law forbids discrimination on every bases but economics—the euphemism for that dirty word, money. Money alone or the lack of it under affordable housing eligibility is what makes the unaffordable on Wildwood Ave. affordable. Isn’t it the dollars-and-cents mandate of affordable housing that two lots of the four on Wildwood, all contiguous and the same size, will bring ½ million dollars or more for two and virtually zero for the other two?
    Money is the critical factor, and whose money is it but the Montclair Taxpayers’? Ironically, in taking the loss on the Wildwood property, the Montclair taxpayers are paying for the five Councilors to be charitable to their interest groups. Would these five fund the resolution out of their own pockets? Could they? It’s easy to believe that the give-away on Wildwood Ave. comes down to the attitude that what’s mine is mine and what’s the taxpayers’ is mine too.
    It’s unfortunate that squandering the Wildwood property has little chance to be stopped, despite the absence of supporting Township ordinances. The Township attorney says “the Township is immune to its own laws,” and the Township Council “can put up a Ferris wheel if they want.” These proclamations bring to mind Cuba or Venezuela, and now sadly they characterize the majority of the current Township leadership. So, according to their “wisdom” and the wishes of their wards, the Wildwood “Ferris wheel” will go up with admission priced at the ability to pay. Some will ride for pennies, others for dollars. But “it’s not about money”; the Township needs a Ferris wheel on Wildwood.
    A. Perna

  13. ROC,
    Points 1 & 2 are valid, fundamental questions. Don’t have the answer.
    Point 3 – categorizing ‘unintended consequences’ as generally making things worse is a cynic’s argument.
    I don’t want to get bogged down in a philosophical exchanges. I’m simply suggesting we take 2 elements of the Master Plan and see if there is any incremental benefit in applying them together on a very limited scale.

  14. “Point 3 – categorizing ‘unintended consequences’ as generally making things worse is a cynic’s argument.”

    The argument that a meaningful dent can be made in providing “affordable housing” for the poor by government fiat and subsidy is a utopian argument.

    Cynicism is just as effective but a hell of a lot cheaper.

  15. Point 3 – categorizing ‘unintended consequences’ as generally making things worse is a cynic’s argument.”

    The argument that a meaningful dent can be made in providing “affordable housing” for the poor by government fiat and subsidy is a utopian argument.

    Cynicism is just as effective but a hell of a lot cheaper.

  16. “Diverse“as a concept to describe Montclair should be substituted by now with the term “Polemical”
    Newcomers seem to embrace and admire Montclair’s “Diversity” because it’s new to them. People from here however, are actually happy to stay and live within the boundaries of their own groups. And then there are the individuals who are a collage of diverse provenance, life experience and education, who can comingle with different distinct groups. To me, there seems to be no unified community….just the local religious communities, the YMCA community…MHS…MKA….MSU….The Golf Club…The Watercoolers…the Baristafolk….Applegates….
    It’s interesting to think of the concept of “Diversity” and seeing what’s happening with regards to Wildwood and the idea of “Affordability”. It seems that the affordable housing idea on this seemingly middle class street sparks controversy, only because of the fear for economic diversity lowering the bar of the status quo and property values in that street. There are at least two or three “affordable” vacation type housing buildings already there from a century ago when the Olmstead Brothers planned out the park. (most of our local Olstead Brother’s park projects included this type of housing) There are so many of these types of buildings in the Montclair-Caldwells area that were built when this area was popular for summer religious retreats organized by the local churches. There were even religious summer camps out here and they were organized to be basic, sober and affordable not luxurious. These summer retreat rooming houses, multi families and bungalows were then absorbed and transformed by suburban sprawl. There are some examples on Wildwood. There is not to fear that affordable housing on Wildwood would lower the “value bar” for the surrounding neighborhood….Gradually in time, these affordable units will just transform themselves into the status quo of the rest of the neighborhood and is perhaps the intention for the house’s inhabitants.
    If SUSTAINABILITY for these types of housing projects is a given. (AND IT ABSOLUTELY MUST BE), then I feel that the neighborhood of Talbot Street would be a much needier recipient of good will and help. The daycare center property that the township took back would be much better destined for affordable housing and much more useful for the surrounding families, some who have lived there for GENERATIONS (some since the early 1800s) and who are also struggling (terribly) to stay in Montclair. Its remarkable that towards the end of the daycare center’s existance, most children came from Newark and not the surrounding neighborhood because there were not enough local families who could qualify for this type of government assistance.

  17. “I wish middle-class status could be legislated, but it cannot.”

    An idea. 100% tax rate above the median income. All of the billionaires making 200k must pay their fair share. Annual adjustments and distributions of course to keep everyone’s income the same.

  18. frankgg,

    I’ve come away from the last four years having learned “lessons” of civic life. One of these is:

    “People want change but they want things to stay the way they are.”

    Having spent time with the folks who live on Wildwood, I don’t believe their opposition to the project is that they are afraid of how the houses will look, or who will live there.

    They are simply used to the way things are, and don’t want change.

    But compounding this was their belief that a) there were other alternatives and b) this was an expensive solution, and one with very limited benefit.

    As to Talbot, yes it was a daycare facility, but it was also used as a community resource for things like parties and a place to get together.

    But there appears to be “competition” for day care in Montclair, especially when the day care comes with subsidies. So the town wide competition resulted in Hollow Day Care getting pushed out. It was not a pretty site, and the Township played what I believe a cruel part in the process by locking out the school director and administrator, denying them the ability to get their records out and properly wrap up the closing of the school. A story you’ll never read in the “mainstream media.”

  19. I was a trustee there, Cary….unacceptable and ridiculous how that ended…the township pushes out an established daycare center that could have been guided into sustainability…even by means of the rentals for parties and events that were already taking place organically…and then I see wastefull and usless expenditures being put into place like the Edgemont Pond walls…or the South Park Street Project…its sickening….

  20. “A story you’ll never read in the “mainstream media.”

    A story that never should have taken place if local government not gotten involved in daycare in the first place. Our town and our country will never get on the right track until we realize government is nt our caretaker.

Comments are closed.