To the editor:

As an Army platoon leader, I learned that every decision I made brought with it real and imagined side effects. But leadership is about so much more than allowing worst-case outcomes to paralyze your ability to make decisions. Good leaders seize opportunities and take action to help those who depend on them. Good leaders also recognize that often the best way to solve big problems is by acting, getting little wins and repeating. This is the leadership that we need from our city council when it comes to addressing the affordability crisis in Salem.

This summer we’re presented with two small solutions that can create small but crucial wins for affordability in Salem:

The first is creating a zoning or permitting path toward reuse of our vacant municipal and religious buildings as affordable and market rate housing. Today, several former schools and municipal buildings sit vacant, and in danger of further decay. Each time the council has been given the opportunity to act on these properties and create a pathway toward preservation and housing, they have failed to come to agreement.

Second is discussion of amending our ordinances regarding “in-law apartments” (also referred to as “accessory dwelling units”) so that they could be rented to non-family members. This is a step in the right direction to create new housing options. It would make a real difference in the lives of those who rely on renting smaller units while supplementing the income of owners, enabling them to stay in their homes.

I urge Salem’s city council to display the leadership that we need to act on both of these incremental solutions. Affordability is a big challenge and there is no silver bullet, but these proposals would provide pathways to supply homes to folks who desperately need them. That’s how leaders face challenges.

Ty Hapworth

At-large City Council candidate