A TASTE OF OLD FLORIDA
DATE: January 1, 2006
PUBLICATION: Palm Beach Post, The (FL)
2005 was a good year for Ted and Trudy Winsberg. The county opened the Green Cay Wetlands on 170 acres of the Winsbergs' former farm west of Boynton Beach. And construction is moving ahead, after a regrettable political delay, on an attainable-housing project on the remaining 43 acres.
Aside from storing reclaimed water and preserving for suburbanites a taste of Old Florida, the wetlands are a living classroom where residents can see where their drinking water comes from. Green Cay Village, billed as the county's first affordable housing development marketed directly to teachers, police officers and others, is a tiny first step in reordering the county's staggering housing imbalance. Economics dictate where people can live. With housing prices skyrocketing, more are being shut out. Some residents of retirement communities bordering Green Cay at Jog and Flavor Pict roads believe that is the way it should be. To them, the Winsbergs' concept of affordable housing raises visions of deteriorating public housing. The neighbors' complaints, egged on by County Commissioner Mary McCarty, delayed work for a year. Commissioner McCarty saw the issue as a wedge to use against Commissioner Burt Aaronson, who represents the area and was up for reelection in 2004. Commissioner Aaronson stood up for the Winsbergs' housing plan and won reelection handily.
The neighbors who spewed venom have to be proven wrong. Green Cay's challenge is to serve as a model, showing that an attainable-housing community will not deteriorate into crowded tenements or become a haven for crime and drug abuse.
The opponents' argument stemmed from a basic misunderstanding. Attainable doesn't mean warehousing the poor. Fears that the suburban area is too far from jobs wrongly assumes Green Cay's residents won't have cars. As The Post reported Monday, builders Goray Communities and the Housing Trust Group are targeting professionals who haven't been able to buy a home in today's market. The builders searched for tenants at hospitals, schools and government offices instead of mounting a marketing campaign. Success relied on Mr. Winsberg's willingness to take less for his land, the builders' willingness to make less off their work and the county's willingness to overcome rules that slow projects, adding unnecessarily to costs.
That's a daunting triumvirate. As the county implores more builders to meet the need for attainable housing, it will help to have success on display in suburban Boynton Beach.