The Unfounded Fears of Affordable Housing Opposition

Neither evidence nor experience support the fearful visions expressed by opponents to affordable housing development, according to a recent feature article for the New York Times.

November 19, 2020, 8:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Wisconsin

SevenMaps / Shutterstock

John Eligon tells the story of an affordable housing controversy in the Milwaukee suburb of New Berlin, Wisconsin and it's not-so-natural conclusion.

The 102-unit building in question, financed by low-income housing tax credits, inspired fierce opposition from neighbors, but the reality eight years later is far from the nuisance imagined by the opposition. "And fears of a crime wave and plummeting property values — voiced by dozens of residents in public meetings — never materialized," according to Eligon.

The example is offered to disprove a frequent talking point of neighborhood activists opposing affordable housing developments, according to the article:

The story of the fight over affordable housing in New Berlin, a deeply conservative suburb about 15 miles southwest of Milwaukee, challenges a key pitch made by President Trump to voters in the suburbs — that “low-income” housing invites crime and hurts property values.

The reality in New Berlin is that the mixed-income development, surrounded by a pond, a farmers’ market and a library, is “really rather attractive,” said Mayor Dave Ament, who is white and staunchly opposed the project as an alderman a decade ago.

This example hasn't been enough to sway the development politics of the citythe county including New Berlin favored Trump in the election and many resident report opposing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Act. Also, many residents of New Berlin bristle at accusations of racism and oppose federal programs that support affordable housing development, either by subsidy or by forcibly implementing fair housing measures. And to be fair, locals identifying as Democrats have also opposed affordable housing development in the city, according to the article.

Still, one example is not the only evidence that opponents of affordable housing developments rely on unfounded fears when making their political arguments. Eligon summarizes:

Research has shown that tax-credit properties generally do not increase crime in affluent communities. They also tend to have little effect on property values in wealthy neighborhoods, though a Stanford University study found that some nearby home prices fell in more prosperous communities.

There's a lot more detail about the New Berlin experience in this feature-length article, which can be found at the link below.

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