HUD Secretary Ben Carson has good intentions for making housing more affordable for Americans, but his strong-armed approach ignores a powerful political paradigm. In a recent NY Times article, A Bi-Partisan Cry for "Not in My Backyard", Mr. Carson wants to pressure local communities to accept multi-family and affordable housing projects or suffer consequences that includes withholding federal funding.
Apparently, Mr. Carson is not aware that NIMBYism has been around for a very long time, driven by a human condition that hates change, while loves the status quo.
NIMBYism masks many negative and dark motivations in stopping progress and growth. This includes multi-family and affordable housing. These motivations are often based on fear, ignorance or selfishness. Here are some of the public reasons why communities are against multi-family and affordable housing projects:
- Property values will go down
- Property taxes will go up
- Congested traffic
- Overcrowded schools
- Increased crime
Privately the reasons can be much more nefarious, racist and prejudiced:
- We want to keep our community "white"
- People who don't own homes won't have pride in ownership
- Keep out trailer trash
- Character of community will become too diversified
Local elected officials are keenly aware of these public and private status quo sentiments. In many communities, voters elect public officials to champion the status quo, so any threats from the secretary of Housing and Urban Development won't sway Republicans or Democrats, or homeowners in rural, suburban and urban (infill) communities.
In fact, there are thousands of cases over the decades, where elected officials, most of whom are part-time local mayors/commissioners, politically reject land use projects that are legally entitled to their entitlements and zoning changes.
What this tells us is the political trumps the legal - especially during an election year. This isn't anything that's new to developers in the multi-family/affordable housing space. Thankfully, there are leaders and influencers in communities who believe communities are stronger with progress and growth.
In fact, studies have shown that property values go up after multi-family projects are completed. Moreover, many of the home sales in the area are due to renters who now want to own a home and keep their children in good schools.
NIMBYism is a byproduct of the fear of change and uncertainty. It's the job of developers and land use professionals to pro-actively engage communities to facilitate meaningful community dialogues, while dispelling false narratives based on fear and hate.
Instead of threatening communities with punitive consequences for ignoring affordable housing, Secretary Carson should offer additional incentives for communities to diversify and offer the American Dream to our fellow neighbors from coast-to-coast.
ABOUT PATRICK SLEVIN: Patrick Slevin is a former Florida mayor. He is a two-time winner of the PRSA Silver Anvil Award of Excellence for Crisis & Issues Management. Influence Magazine named Slevin one of the "Great Communicators". Slevin has been recognized by Campaigns & Elections Magazine as one of the nation’s top political “Movers’ & Shakers". Mr. Slevin is the founder and head of Florida-based SL7 Consulting.
Patrick Slevin recently announced his new presentation Crisis Leadership: How to Turn Controversial Development into Your Finest Hour. In his presentations and seminars, corporate leaders will learn "how-to" effectively Minimize, Maximize and Marginalize (3-M Methodology) the social factors that publicly threaten development and land use projects.