Racism and segregation are alive and well in Suburbia

Not in my back yard, build it somewhere else:

“We built our brand-new home here because we worked hard to become residents of New Berlin — not because we got a handout, not because somebody paved the way for us,” one woman said.

One man described seeing an increase in crime when a “lower-income element” moved into his former Milwaukee neighborhood. “You put this low-income housing into this part of the city,” he said, and “I guarantee you this is what you’re inviting into our community.” At least one resident wrote a letter teasing at fears that her city would turn into the North Side of Milwaukee, which is predominantly Black.

I don't care what state you're living in, or if you're urban, suburban, exurban, or even (especially?) rural. Nothing brings out the NIMBY more than new development. I've been on our Town's Planning Board for about six years now. The first three years were non-eventful, we went about 5 months one time with no meetings. But the last three years have been nothing short of brutal. We've had citizens yell at us, glare at us, question our integrity, and throughout there has been a near-constant undercurrent of racism. It is often couched in "property value" arguments, but it is there, nonetheless. And none of our proposed developments received (or even asked for) government subsidies or other enticements:

The development proposed in New Berlin was relying on low-income housing tax credits, which were introduced in 1986 as part of the largest federal program for building new affordable housing. These developments are vastly different from the public housing projects the government built through the middle of the 20th century.

By the 1980s, the federal government had almost completely stopped building low-income housing, leaving it mostly to private developers through tax credits, said Edward Goetz, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Minnesota. Tax-credit developments, which must set aside a share of their units for people with low earnings, usually employ construction styles that mesh with the surrounding communities.

In New Berlin, neighborhoods consist primarily of tract housing with no sidewalks. Residents often leave their garage doors open, and over the years, they have openly feared that too much development could lead to the creation of direct bus routes to Milwaukee.

Bolding mine, because I've run into that, too. Every year I speak (to the Board of Aldermen) in support of continuing our Town's participation in a bus service established five years ago, because every year one or three conservative navel-gazers complain about that spending. They talk about the money, but they're really complaining about giving "certain people" easy access to our Town. Back to development, and how quickly NIMBY jumps political party lines:

Alice Torres, 53, a lifelong Democrat, said that much of her opposition to the Deer Creek development stemmed from seeing the deterioration of communities where she had worked with a Milwaukee nonprofit organization to rehabilitate affordable housing. She worried that would happen in New Berlin, where she had moved for her children to get a better education. That concern was enough for her to ignore what she believed was the racism of some of the project’s opponents and align with them in resisting the proposal.

But the past several years have been an awakening, said Ms. Torres, who is white.

She has become so turned off by the political views of some of the Republicans she had teamed up with in opposition to the housing that she now ignores them when she sees them. She disconnected from some of them on Facebook.

And because the affordable housing development did not bring the problems she had experienced in Milwaukee, Ms. Torres said she would not be so quick to oppose future projects. With a caveat.

“As long as it’s not in my backyard,” she said.

At least she's honest about it. Yeah, that was sarcasm.

I have to give a hat-tip to the UNC School of Government for the training sessions they hold for planning and zoning folks. I've attended five of these trainings, most of the time ferrying 2-3 of my fellow board members with me. UNC SOG drives the point home unambiguously that the race or economic stature of potential residents should not be a consideration when voting on proposed zoning or developments. As Chairman, I have to watch like a hawk to make sure that doesn't happen, but citizens make it damn hard. Just last month somebody dropped "Section 8" into their argument against a townhome development. And when I explained to her that they weren't rentals, and that the proposed Home Owners Association (HOA) would not allow sub-lets, she called me a liar. She had lived in a townhome somewhere else and "bad people" had started moving in.

"Thanks for your comments. Next speaker?"

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