On January 7, a group of Wallingford neighbors met to discuss and imagine the future of our beloved neighborhood. One outcome of that meeting was the founding of Welcoming Wallingford, a group of neighbors dedicated to fostering a productive dialogue about the future of the neighborhood, making space for  more people tell their stories and share their perspectives, and working together to build a stronger and more welcoming community.

Here are the goals we set:

  • Develop and elevate a vision for Wallingford that is inclusive and embraces sustainability and progressive values;
  • Provide a reliable source of both human-centered and data-driven information on HALA and other policies;
  • Make space for productive debate;
  • Discuss consensus positions aimed at improving HALA;
  • Step up as a group that will engage on policy;
  • Recruit neighbors to join the conversation;
  • Pass the upzone.

The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA)–which promises to ease zoning restrictions slightly in exchange for affordability requirements–has spurred significant angst in the area. Lawn signs with bulldozer clipart have appeared on various blocks. We understand the anxiety about impending changes, but we think HALA on balance will be good for Wallingford, and we welcome with open arms the new neighbors growth will bring.

Both homeowners and renters, our group runs the gambit from long term residents to recent arrivals and from tech workers to social justice advocates. We didn’t agree on everything, but we jointly acknowledged the affordability crisis is a real and pressing problem; the status quo isn’t cutting it, and we must act quickly. HALA isn’t perfect, but we agreed it’s a good and necessary step; unlike hypothetical alternatives, it can be implemented soon and start making a difference for those feeling the brunt of skyrocketing housing prices.

HALA’s signature Mandatory Housing Affordability program sets aside between 5% and 11% of new units for people making less than 80% of area median income. This requirement, also known as inclusionary zoning, inherently makes new development more equitable. With housing, new equals expensive (one reason why: new units have brand new appliances and finishes and are not yet worn or mildewed). But inclusionary zoning counteracts this tendency and places low-income renters in brand new units in highly desirable neighborhoods. The economic mixing inclusionary zoning engenders is something few other policies can offer so easily.

In the future, we will go in-depth on the ins and outs of HALA and try to tell the story of our neighborhood and the people in it during these times of pronounced change. Since we are also interested in the amorphous “livability” in the HALA acronym, we’ll advocate for better transit, safer streets, bike facilities and greenways. We’ll also explore and champion restaurants, cafes, shops and cultural amenities that make Wallingford such a great neighborhood to visit or call home.

Please follow our blog and sign up to get engaged if you’re interested in joining the dialogue, celebrating our dynamic neighborhood, and advocating together for our mission to welcome more people to it.