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Is NIMBY-Shaming a Viable Housing Strategy?

Facing a severe housing shortage, Washington, D.C. grapples with how to approach the challenges presented by local stakeholders who oppose any and all development.
October 19, 2019, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Washington, D.C.

"Like the rest of the Washington region, D.C. is facing a severe housing shortage, and efforts to address it are regularly stymied by residents who want to insulate their neighborhoods from change," writes Ally Schweitzer.

In this discussion, the District's housing concerns are placed in context by the region's housing concerns. Earlier in September, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments put out a non-binding resolution calling on local governments to meet specific, ambitious housing targets.

"As of now, about 245,000 new housing units are forecast to be built in the region by 2030. The council proposes building 75,000 more homes on top of that to match the pace of job growth," wrote Schweitzer in an earlier article on that regional pronouncement.

As D.C. starts to consider its role in that equation, Schweitzer suggests that one of the causes of the District's housing shortages will remain one of its persistent challenges: "a formidable and constant political challenge is found among homeowners who appeal zoning decisions in court, testify against development-related legislation or find other ways to impede or shut down residential projects."

The counter strategy of shaming NIMBYs is only one of the approaches to the challenge explored by Schweitzer, and it's mostly dismissed as ineffective. For examples of other strategies that might work in moving the needle in favor of new residential development, an Urban Land Institute technical advisory panel recently produced a report on how to meet the District's goals [pdf] for new housing development. 

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Published on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 in WAMU
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