I consider myself lucky. Last year, at the age of 56, I purchased my first home. It's a 600-square foot, one-bedroom condominium so close to CalTrain the walls shake when the Baby Bullet rumbles through.
I would not have been able to do this without the local below-market rate program that is part of Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan. Prior to this I lived in a rent subsidized studio and I was able to save just enough money to believe that I wouldn't be treading financial water forever, that I could at least temporarily survive, and possibly thrive, in one of our nation's costliest communities. Had these programs not been there to help, my only choice would have been to leave the place I call home.
But not everyone in Palo Alto is happy I'm here. Some believe it's immoral to take advantage of rent subsidies and below-market rate programs and that the City has no obligation to help people like me find housing. In other words, if I can't afford to live here, I don't deserve to.
But if the officials we elect don't have an obligation to help, then who does?
It's frustrating to be labeled as someone who is taking advantage of a system designed to help. To be thought of as selfish. It's a subtle form of bullying, to be told with a look that you don't belong, to have the feeling that your money isn't good enough if you're not wearing the right clothes, or to feel that a blind eye is being turned from a desperate situation.