Fighting the NIMBYs on Affordable Housing

New Orleans City Council Meeting 05.23.2019 on housing development in the Bywater neighborhood.

New Orleans     Sadly, it’s not just an aberration in my own neighborhood where bizarrely the “not in my back yard” crowd fought fiercely to block the return of affordable housing to a long established Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) site.  It seems to be almost everywhere in big American cities with increasingly entitled, gentrifying faux-liberal populations.

In a small victory, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-0 with the uptown councilperson taking a powder, on a so-called “compromise” allowing the project to move forward with a slightly smaller footprint but at least holding on to the more than 80 affordable units that included slightly more than 50 market rate apartments.   The district councilwoman had been touting embarrassing and ridiculous proposals to try to pander to the NIMBY crowd that included some of the neighborhood, real-estate dominated civic associations.  One of the more bizarre had been an argument that she was for the number of affordable units, but wanted them spread all over town.  You can hear the dog whistle from here, can’t you?

Let’s be clear.  Affordable housing is an issue in New Orleans.  Repopulating African-American families in neighborhoods is also an issue for me and for people who care about the city post-Katrina, as well as diversity of race and income in neighborhoods like Bywater where I live that were solid multi-racial working class and lower income areas when we moved here decades ago.  To save face, when I can only believe that she couldn’t get any votes, our councilwoman pasted together a fig leaf compromise that allowed some of the NIMBYs say in the design of the project to try to salvage their claims about “neighborhood character” and “green space” as something other than hard core class and race bias.  Hopefully, this committee will not kowtow to this small entitled group.  The highlight for me was reading that another councilman following the vote, essentially chided the projects opponents saying that they needed to really look deeply into their real motivations. Amen!

More depressing was reading that the pretend-progressive California legislature scuttled a bill that would have repealed restrictive zoning for single-family housing near transit stops in order to allow lower income families more access to jobs and services.  The Times columnist reporting on this normally writes about tech issues, but the headline was “Nimby Liberals Make Cities Unlivable,” and he quoted George W. Bush’s comments about “catastrophic success” from the Iraq war.  What a double-shot to the gut!

City after city in the US, Canada, the European Union, Australia, and, OK, all around the world are fencing out people to create enclaves for the rich and white and forgetting the rest of what makes cities work.  Our back yards have no value without people, and people have to be our priority.  Lots of people, not just a few.

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Please enjoy Hamish Anderson’s What You Do To Me.

Thanks to KABF.

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Silicon Valley Bay Area, a Housing Affordability Crisis Engulfing Everyone

People living in their trailers in Silicon Valley (John Orr / Daily News)

San Francisco     I have housing market fatigue.  Everyone rich, poor, and in the middle have a housing prices horror story throughout northern California.  No one seems untouched from the impact of this crisis, and it dominates almost every conversation.

  • A friend told me she was visiting Birmingham for the first time to spent time with a 30-year long friend of hers who was a lifelong San Francisco resident who had moved to Alabama to be closer to her daughter after being priced out of the city.
  • A colleague told me his house was now appraised at $2 million, but his unit in the basement was being written up for ceilings that were under height and would cost hundreds of thousands to get to code.The solution turned out to have the specs designed and submitted to the city for a construction permit, and then to renew it every two years for lack of financing.
  • Another told me his unit was declared illegal by a disgruntled neighbor but after a notice was affixed to his door he called the city inspector in San Francisco and finally on the phone asked was there any way to “fix” this problem and was advised by the inspector that he could “deny entry,” so he did four years ago and that was that, indicating how much city employees empathize with longtime residents.
  • A school in San Jose buys up any house that comes up for sale around its borders for cash in order to provide housing for teachers. Another created a program to match down payments with that of teachers so they could buy.  Another was buying an apartment building with eight-units to house beginning teachers.
  • Someone else who had bought a condo in San Francisco told me of building meetings they were having regularly now to deal with fears that maintenance fees would force them out.
  • The neighboring cities of Santa Clara and San Jose sued each other over claims that large developments would create traffic and housing problems, and finally settled to allow them to move forward.
  • Apple ditched plans for a huge expansion and consolidation of its office space near its new Steve Jobs designed spaceship location because they didn’t believe their workers could find housing, and instead were adding over a million  into a seven building campus in Austin, Texas, likely moving the housing crisis there, hundreds of workers are filing transfer papers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and doesn’t touch what’s happening to lower income and working families.  Home ownership is an impossible dream. Affordable rents and shorter commutes are much the same.

This isn’t sustainable, and no one seems to have a solution.

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