June 2, 2021

Council Should Consider Housing Affordability in Parking Discussion

To the Editor:

I appreciated Mr. Rodrigues’ Town Topics letter of May 19 [“Build More Housing to Solve Princeton’s Parking “Problem”], connecting the ongoing parking discussion to another important ongoing discussion: affordable housing.

I grew up in Princeton and moved back in my mid-20s to care for an ill parent. I made $35,000 a year at a local nonprofit, while my partner made under $10/hour while getting a professional degree. Three years later, we now both work for the town’s public institutions, giving back to the community that raised me. But we moved out of town because of the lack of affordable housing.

In Princeton, we struggled to find housing to share with friends in similar situations — wanting or needing to live in Princeton but unable to afford more than a room in a shared house. Part of the issue was the high rent, and part of it was the preference of landlords to rent to traditional families or Princeton PhDs.

Another part was the outdated prohibition on overnight parking in the former Borough, which closed off the entire “core” of town to our household of 3-5 young adults who needed multiple cars to get to work and school. This prohibition also affects multigenerational households, households that require overnight caregivers, and people who don’t have the mobility to walk or bike.

I agree that public school students should ride the bus to school rather than driving and parking private cars. As a frequent bike commuter, I also agree that it’s crucial to invest in local and regional walking and biking infrastructure. However, the Western Section residents’ concern for “sustainability” above the ability of their neighbors to live in this town is a straw man. Stalling this discussion to keep their wide, quiet streets empty of parking serves only them.

To me, sustainability means that more of the people who keep the town running can live within walking or biking distance of their workplaces. Sustainability means that multigenerational families and people in their 20s are able to live here. Sustainability means that elders can age in their community. Council, please consider our community members, including those of us who work here and care for family members here, in your discussions of sustainable parking and housing regulations.

Nathalie Levine
Parker Road, Highland Park