AKRON, Oh. — On your first trip to Akron, the brick-covered streets may take you by surprise.
“They add character, but they’re not the smoothest ride; they slow people down,” said Jason Segedy, the Akron city planner.
They’re considered beloved relics from the turn of the 20th century when the city’s population was booming. While the days of creating new brick roads are over, Mayor Dan Horrigan would like Akron to once again be growing.
“We probably lost 100,000 people from 1960 to 2015, but we have this infrastructure. We have this space for a lot more,” said Horrigan.
The problem: many existing homes in Akron are old. Built in the WWI era for factory workers, many weren’t meant to last 80 years, but they continue to stand. Horrigan says repairs are too expensive for the public or city to fix them all.
Segedy says what Akron is going through is being seen throughout the nation.
“We are really trying to get supply and demand right in like our supply-demand equation right now,” he said.
Last month, Mayor Horrigan joined the mayors of Tempe, Arizona and Bozeman, Montana in testifying in front of U.S. senators. What the mayors have in common is an affordable housing shortage, driving people out of their cities. In the hearing, they proposed an idea: add funding for more affordable housing to Biden’s multi-trillion infrastructure plan.
“I do not expect the federal government to build new housing from the ground up, but I do expect you to do something to give tools to local governments to fill the gaps the private sector is not meeting,” said Mayor Cyndy Andrus of Bozeman during the meeting.
While they may believe affordable housing needs more avenues of funding, are they right in considering housing as infrastructure? Horrigan believes so.
“All the water meters, all the roads, all the water lines that lead to houses, they all lead to commercial buildings. So, we think it's a key part of the infrastructure in many urban areas across the country.”
Republicans at the hearing cautioned the committee, urging frugality and state control when it comes to infrastructure. Housing, as of now, has not been included in the plan, but Mayor Horrigan continues to hope for some extra help, so those brick roads will lead more folks to their new home
“When they get involved, they help out so many people. It's such a large scale. That's the difference that we're trying to make,” said Mayor Horrigan.