Accountability, Arrogance, and NIMBY

Over the long weekend, there was a fantastic article about a key element of the housing crisis in many urban metropolitan areas: NIMBY progressives (NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard). This is one reason, among many, why I’ve never called myself a progressive.

But there are two things left out of the article (after all, it’s an article, not a thesis) that really get me about the NIMBY progressives: the lack of accountability and their arrogance. In Dupont Circle, D.C., St. Thomas Episcopal Parish finally was able to turn their property into a mixed property of a church and a residential building (the church, which had been damaged in a fire gained both additional space and money). Some local residents opposed it, to the point of nearly bankrupting the project through lawsuits (how a half-completed pile of concrete would have been preferable to the finished project is unclear).

Much of the opposition made all sorts of doom and gloom predictions about how it would ruin the character of the neighborhood and so on. Now that the project is complete, the neighborhood is…fine. If someone unfamiliar with the neighborhood pre-construction were to walk by it, they wouldn’t notice a damn thing. Dupont Circle is still very nice! But are the people who complained about it held accountable? (the neighborhood hasn’t been ‘uglified’ at all). When they show up to oppose other projects, are their complaints weighted with their previous predictions that didn’t come to pass? Of course not. But they should be.

The other thing that isn’t progressive at all is the arrogance. There are real and legitimate concerns in gentrifying neighborhoods about pushing out long-term lower-income and middle class renters, as well as harming lower-end businesses through massive rent increases. But in affluent areas, the concern is over people like them*, though often younger, who simply want to live in the neighborhood too. They are treated as if they are some sort of pollution, when, in fact, they’re often just younger versions of themselves.

There goes the neighborhood? The arrogance is astounding. Anyway, it’s an excellent article, and it will likely become a political issue over the coming years.

*It gets even more vile when it’s lower income people, which in D.C. with an <80% AMI cutoff, often means a household earning ~$50,000 per year.

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