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Affordable Housing , Community Development

May IForum Explores Ethics & NIMBYism

15 May 2012

Case Studies in Conflict:
Who Decides Where, When and How We Create Housing?

With a crowd of over 100, the fifth IForum of 2012 explored issues of ethics, NIMBYism and planning approaches to address opposition to affordable housing development.

If you have having trouble viewing the slideshow, click here

Keynote speaker and ethicist Michael Rion, Ph. D, Yale University, former President of the Hartford Seminary and founder of Resources for Ethics and Management, discussed three important aspects of ethics when approaching issues where there is disagreement: consequences, principles and character. Rion spoke of the need to understand the broader consequences of our actions, to understand that our interpretations of the principles which we hold dear vary, and to refrain from attacking the character of those with whom we disagree in order to continue to dialogue.

Rion also urged us all to reflect on our own moral blinders – the rationalizations we use to convince ourselves that our position is the “right” one, and that others are “wrong.” He suggested that in areas of conflict, we work together to foster a “generous imagination” that will allow us to see how different people will be impacted by the decisions that we make. 

Following Rion’s speech, the IForum featured a panel of local community members who were involved in contentious housing development proposals in their towns. The panelists offered their perspective on the proposals, feeling that developers proposing projects did not consider the concerns of community members, that projects did not fit with the character of the neighborhood or that the projects did not meet adequate health and safety thresholds. The panelists acknowledged that some community members are motivated by misinformation, but offered their own perspective that others simply disagree with the particulars of a project. Panelists also noted that a lack of trust on both sides of the issue often makes the situation more contentious.

The forum’s third panel focused on planning tools and forums that can be used to circumvent the kinds of acrimonious conflicts that often arise when development is proposed. Moderator Hiram Peck, Town Planner for Simsbury, discussed the charrette process used by Simsbury to create several Incentive Housing Zones for their downtown area. While Simsbury’s charrette process and that of Hamden (also represented on the panel) were more complex, the town of Colchester executed a shorter one-day charrette, which also successfully addressed the concerns and needs of town residents.

The Bristol Rising effort of crowdsource placemaking incorporates monthly meetings where residents can discuss concerns along with an interactive social media component to encourage increased local participation. Andrea Pereira of Local Initiative Support Corporation also discussed key components to building local support – be inclusive, stay objective, offer meaningful engagement, be well organized, be transparent and provide outlets for feedback.

Special thanks to our panelists, listed below.
Members of Panel One: Objecting to Housing Creation - The Reasons and The Residents:

Members of Panel Two: Proactive Planning, Zoning and Discourse - A Range of Approaches:

Materials from the forum: 

To view a recording of the event, please click here