Wednesday, February 21, 2018

YIMBYism can be a Problem, Too

I'm in favor of spreading subsidized housing throughout our communities. Yes, that means building subsidized housing in our rich neighborhoods (read, white), not just in our poor neighborhoods (read, black and brown). I used to think that opposition to that proposal came from the rich neighborhoods. That's not false, but that's not the whole story, either.

Two tools that cities could wield to spread subsidized housing interest me in particular: linking up-zoning requests by developers to commitments to include subsidized housing in the development, and passing housing voucher non-discrimination ordinances.

Recently, a non-profit group called Opportunity Dallas released its task force's own housing policy recommendations, concluding that mixed-income and affordable housing is needed throughout the entire city. I read along with the recommendations, quietly nodding my head. It was only a few days later I read something by the Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze, that, as Schutze often does, kicked me upside the head.
The feds have told the city that the only way Dallas can work its way out of the segregation hole it’s in is by putting all future subsidized housing in the city’s less segregated (whiter) areas. You maybe thought the problem there would be NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) from the white folks.

But an even tougher obstacle for [Dallas City Manager T.C.] Broadnax to overcome is YIMBYism (Yes in My Back Yard) from black elected officials for whom subsidized housing developers have always been a reliable source of campaign funds and other, more direct payments. Black council members don’t care if sticking more public subsidy housing in their districts reinforces and even exacerbates already existing segregation. Those guys pay good.
Source: Jim Schutze.

It's kind of obvious when Schutze puts it like that, but naive as I am, it just never occurred to me that even the politicians that supposedly represent the victims of segregation would oppose measures intended to relieve the results of that segregation. I'm not so naive to believe that those same politicians would put it quite the way Schutze does, of course. And they would probably tell me to keep my white nose out of it. Probably good advice. So let me segue to my own neck of the woods, the Richardson ISD.

A lot of the dynamics in the Dallas story grow out of that city's single-member-district council-manager form of government. The Richardson ISD now faces a lawsuit growing out of its own at-large system of government. The lesson in Dallas just might be that changing to single-member-districts might result in more representative government, but it by no means would assure good government.

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

Between the time the above blog post was written and when it was published, Carol Toler in the Lake Highlands Advocate raised the possibility that if a single member district is drawn in the Hamilton Park neighborhood of the RISD, its elected representative might push for redrawing school attendance boundaries to recreate African-American majority schools there, which were done away with in the 1970s desegregation order by courts. How ironic would it be if school segregation returns to Richardson ISD championed by the African-American community itself.