Do you love where you live?
More than a year ago, I wrote about how New Hampshire has grown to be part of my identity and how I’ve finally found a sense of belonging in a town that surprised me. Since then, Durham has continued to grow on me. Today, I feel invested in the future of my town. As a result, I’ve become increasingly involved, joining my town’s planning board and economic development committee.
This post will depart from my usual interpretation of “housing and housing issues,” but will nonetheless explore how where you live is the foundation of who you are and, hopefully, challenge you to broaden your idea of what makes a place a home. This post was, I kid you not, inspired by googly eyes.
Yes. You read that correctly. I am sentimental to a fault and I can turn nearly anything, even googly eyes, into an opportunity for thoughtful reflection about why housing diversity is important.
This story started a few weeks ago. I was walking downtown when I spotted a pair of googly eyes stuck to a pipe. I laughed and wrote it off as cute, harmless “vandalism.” Then, something weird happened, and googly eyes appeared all over town. I snapped a couple pictures, posted one to the internet, and carried on with my life.
The googly eye invasion continued. I started seeing them on my social media feeds and then I found out that someone else had found thirty-four pairs of googly eyes. Thirty-four? I am a competitive person, so naturally I grabbed my camera and I got to work. For the past couple weeks, I’ve been walking downtown with my camera a lot.
During my downtown adventures, I’ve popped into the downtown shops, chatted with others visiting the downtown, and shared my many googly eye finds with my digital friends. In exchange for all my hard work, I found forty-one pairs of googly eyes and a heightened appreciation for my community. I love where I live, but I don’t just mean my apartment. Home doesn’t end at the front door. Solving the state’s housing shortage and affordability issues isn’t exclusively about creating places to sleep; it’s about creating places to live. Placemaking is multi-faceted and housing is just one part of the vibrancy puzzle. When I leave my apartment, I am part of a community. A community that thinks sticking googly eyes all over town is awesome.
Like dozens of other New Hampshire communities, Durham is having a conversation about housing supply, diversity, and affordability. In the meantime, the housing market in Durham is tight and I worry that there isn’t room for my family to continue to grow here. My mission is housing affordability, but housing doesn’t happen in a silo. Housing is central to the fabric of our communities. The value of a diverse supply of housing isn’t just about providing affordable shelter, but about what happens beyond the mailbox, when you bring diverse people together and create a community. Googly eyes optional.