Not in My Backyard

You are the president of your local zoning board, the group who evaluates proposals for new buildings in your area. Today, you are addressing the need for more affordable housing, while responding to concerns from residents.

Task Force: Not in My Backyard

Congratulations!

You are the president of your local zoning board, the group who evaluates proposals for new buildings in your area. Today, you are addressing the need for more affordable housing, while responding to concerns from residents. For the sake of this task force, imagine that you are the zoning board for a wealthy suburban town, and a proposal has just been made for the construction of a new housing complex designed to be affordable for lower income residents. 

Why Are We Doing This?

Proposals for constructing housing for low-income people are often met with “not in my backyard”, or NIMBY, arguments. Basically, this means that people may agree with the need for more housing for lower income individuals and families, but they don’t want the structures built near their homes because they believe it will have a negative impact on them. Critics call out these types of NIMBY arguments for being racist, classist, and hypocritical because wealthy people rely on the labor of the same people who they don’t want to live near. 

Steps

  1. Research some common arguments that NIMBYs make in regards to low-income housing. What types of concerns are raised?  
    1. Also, research how people have responded. What do affordable housing advocates say? 
    2. Also, read this article on rethinking what we mean by “backyard”. What do you think of the argument the author is making?  
  2. Next, design your plan and craft your response. Think about: 
    1. Will you approve the proposal to build low-income housing in the town? 
      1. If yes, how will you explain your decision to the residents who object to the plan? 
      2. If not, how will you explain your decision to those who support it? 
    2. What do you think will be the outcome of your decision? Think about possible positives and negatives. 
    3. Will your plan involve some kind of compromise between the two sides? If so, what might a compromise be? 
    4. Whose needs/wants should be prioritized when making a decision? 
    5. What can you do to reduce these debates/arguments in the future? 
  3. Share with the group and see if you can convince them that your plan will work. 

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • You do not have to come up with an exhaustive list of procedures for your plan. It’s better to come up with a few ideas that you feel confident with and spend time thinking through possible objections to them. 
  • You don’t have to worry about answering all possible objections, but you should have some defense of why you think your plan would work. 
  • Your suggestions should be things that could realistically be implemented.
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