Joining Forces for Affordable Housing has started a new YIMBY Committee, because site-based opposition by neighbors is the biggest obstacle (aside from funding) to getting new affordable housing built.
While we hear about fears of people with low incomes throughout north suburban Cook County, in Evanston, very few people will say outright that they are against affordable housing. Yet, whenever a new development is proposed, we hear nearby residents say the same thing: “We’re all for affordable housing, but…..” And the rest of the sentence typically has to do with concerns about one or more of the following:
Some of these concerns can and should be addressed through the municipality’s regulatory processes. Others are based on generalizations about affordable housing and people with low incomes or on misinformation. What is unavoidable is that any new building will bring change, and usually it is change that some people will not like.
Underlying most objections to an affordable housing development is another important assumption that many people buy into without thinking. It is the assumption that the rights and desires of people who live in a neighborhood (particularly those who don’t need affordable housing) take precedent over the rights and basic needs of people who don’t live in that neighborhood—whether they live in the same municipality or not. Another assumption is that the discomfort that new affordable development will cause among nearby residents should trump the benefit that that housing will provide to its residents, and to the community as a whole.
Given the severity of the affordable housing shortage, Joining Forces for Affordable Housing is looking to bring these assumptions to light and question them. We are focused on creating arguments in support of affordable housing, public education campaigns, and a YIMBY-focused mobilization effort to support new affordable development.
If you are interested in joining the YIMBY Committee and contributing your time, energy, contacts, and/or expertise, please contact Nathaniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments from YIMBY Committee Members
"In Heather McGhee's book, The Sum of Us, she makes clear that a community good benefits everyone in a community. Her analysis is of the cost of racially biased policies and practices harming everyone, including the white people who imposed the limits gets to the issue.
How can we prosper together?
"I think that we should acknowledge that there are objections to every new building and not infrequently to houses, which often ask for variances, particularly in relation to building a house larger than allowed based on lot size. I think we should, in commentary, recognize that there are concerns about almost every new project, but that we will take all comments seriously. However, many objections shouldn't hinder the value of a new housing project because there are so many offsetting positives to the community as a whole.
I think this would have been particularly appropriate for Church-Darrow and South Boulevard. It's interesting that even though the Grant project wasn't affordable housing, neighbors expressed objections about this development that are usually addressed about affordable housing developments.
I also think that the Church-Darrow project and South Boulevard will enhance their neighborhoods, not detract from them. I think that in some cases we should go on the offensive. Really, we're speaking to the commissions and the City Council at this time.
Outreach to Evanston communities, I know, is a next step."