The Left-Leaning NIMBY

<p>In Marin County and other wealthy, liberal enclaves, many residents are vocally supportive of affordable housing and other causes -- unless its in their neighborhood.</p>
August 3, 2007, 8am PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"Bill Duane knows most people can't afford homes like his $1 million bungalow on a hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. That's why the Marin County attorney volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. Until recently, that is, when the group announced plans to build two affordable duplexes just down the street from him. "Habitat usually goes into a blighted neighborhood and enhances it," Duane says. "Here, they are coming into an enhanced neighborhood and blighting it." Housing advocates say Duane exemplifies a vexing irony: People support affordable housing with their labor, money, and votes-just so long as it's nowhere near them."

"Marin is among the most liberal (and expensive) counties in the nation, but Duane says all of his neighbors back him. Indeed, opposition to affordable housing in the county was so fierce in the 1990s that a Marin chapter of Habitat disbanded, former members say, after finding itself unable to get a single project built in five years. On the opposite coast, in wealthy, liberal Martha's Vineyard, 10 homeowners sued earlier this year-on environmental grounds-to block construction of an affordable house for a fisherman who'd been living with his wife and children in a tent. In Boulder, Colorado, affordable-housing advocate Joni Lynch says her most strident foes were button-wearing progressives. And in the gentrifying Edgewood neighborhood of Washington, D.C., one resident who fought the construction of the low-income St. Martin's apartments nearby actually worked for a company that builds low-income apartments."

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Published on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 in Mother Jones
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