Helping neighbors with small and large challenges through voluntary cooperation is the cornerstone of strengthening communities.
Just after sunrise on an unseasonably chilly Saturday morning, members of the Libertarian Party of Wake County joined Habitat for Humanity volunteers and staff on a construction site near downtown Raleigh. Two homes in mid-construction stood behind them. In addition to safety and job site protocols, the group was briefed on the positive impact that this project, and thousands like it, have on homeowners’ families and communities.
Habitat for Humanity’s vision is clear, “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.” They work toward that vision by partnering with the private donors, corporations and volunteers who share their commitment to literally building that world. And while many picture shelter issues occurring in rural and remote areas of our state, there is also a strong need right here in Raleigh.
Every growing region faces a similar challenge. Politicians boast about political efforts to promote growth and attract jobs. Few recognize, and even fewer discuss, the other side of that coin. While markets are flexible and robust enough to absorb the increase in residents, government zoning policy is not. The result is a lack of affordable housing and the burden this places on vulnerable residents in gentrifying neighborhoods.
This conflict is a classic example of the unintended consequences that inevitably arise when government policy, intended to address an issue in one area, has undesirable influence on many others.
“The zoning policies city officials use to control how a neighborhood looks are the same policies that are making these communities unaffordable for current residents,” observed David Ulmer, Wake Libertarian chair and construction site volunteer.
But the day was not about the abstract effects of government policy. It was about making a real, tangible, positive impact in the community. It was a day focused on supporting a neighbor and future homeowner who will soon be able to provide a decent and affordable home for her family.
“The character of a community is not about height and density restrictions. It’s about people,” noted Ulmer.
A full day of ladders, hammers, lumber and paint brushes was not enough to dull the spirit of the Wake Libertarians working shoulder to shoulder in moving these homes closer to occupancy. They were motivated in part by comradery and a sense of accomplishment, but also in part by their commitment to directly addressing the issues facing their community.
Somewhat ironically, Libertarians know the individual responsibility to help neighbors and strengthen communities cannot be voted away at the ballot box. That might seem odd for a political party. But get to know them at one of their weekly meet-ups or regular community outreach events and you’ll soon appreciate how their approach to a free, peaceful and prosperous society can make a real difference.