I grew up in Fairfield. It was idyllic — right down by the beach, where our next door neighbor’s house recently sold for just under $1 million and was torn down to make room for a $2.8 million McMansion — one of the homes that are generally referred to as “monstrosities” by long-time residents.
Dad paid $28,000 for a little split-level home in 1965. I walked to school, rode my bike, climbed trees, and every Fourth of July we sat in our backyard and watched the fireworks display. The kids in the neighborhood roamed in a happy pack back and forth through connected backyards. We were working class or lower middle class. All of us down by the beach. Little capes, ranches, split-level homes with unassuming families.
When I visit Fairfield now, it is unrecognizable. It is heartbreaking. The air of exclusivity is suffocating. I read the op-eds ranting against the development of 1030g housing with anger. People like my family made Fairfield the place that others wanted to live in. Average-income teachers, firefighters, small town grocers, retailers — these are the folks that built the Mayberry-that-was. And the NIMBYs that live there and want to exclude *us* think that they can do better? The idea that money somehow makes one a better class of human mystifies me. More than that, I recognize it as a spiritual untruth.
And the “affordability” of these rental units that are being proposed is not in any sense of the word affordable for a teacher or a customer service rep, but that’s a subject for another day.
I am a real estate agent. The number of good, well-educated, hard-working folks desperate to find an affordable apartment or home is depressing. I have a string of folks on the line who are willing and ready to buy or rent but are stuck in substandard housing because they can’t afford a decent place to live. A decent place to live. A place with decent schools and a safe neighborhood. That should not be too much to ask for anyone.
I grew up in Fairfield. I went to a very good college and have a degree in political science. I am an artist, a writer, and I am good at languages. I am a walking dictionary. Although my fortunes have recently improved, for most of my life (I am 61) I could not hope to afford living in Fairfield. I am the person that the NIMBYs would exclude from their little paradise: a paradise I helped to create.
Fairfield needs to be a good citizen. Exclusivity is a horrible collective concept that belies the town’s professed values. If “Hate” truly “Has No Home Here,” if “Black Lives Matter” (just not in my backyard), then walk the talk. Otherwise, just put up a different sign on the town green: “Wealthy Whites Only.”
Alycia Keating is a real estate agent in Derby.