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.
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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:
- Tanya Carver (Tanya.Carver@pb.com) - Keep Oxford Green, Town of Oxford Planning and Zoning Commissioner
- Stephen Woods (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Mayor, Town of Newington
- Alice Sexton (AllyTerry@sbcglobal.net) - Attorney
- Chris Silhavey (Silhavey@aol.com) - Town of Stratford, Chair of Planning and Zoning Commission
Members of Panel Two: Proactive Planning, Zoning and Discourse - A Range of Approaches:
- Moderator: Hiram Peck (email@example.com) - Planning Director, Town of Simsbury
- Leslie Creane (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Planning Director, Town of Hamden
- Andrea Pereira (email@example.com) - Executive Director, LISC Connecticut Office
- Adam Turner (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Planning Director, Town of Colchester
- Ryan Porter (email@example.com) - Director of Planning, Renaissance Downtowns, Bristol
Materials from the forum:
- FannieMae: Getting Past NIMBY
- Myths & Facts About Affordable Housing
- California's anit-NIMBY law
- NIMBY Notebook: Habitat for Hypocrisy
- NYT: Low Income Housing in Poor Neighborhoods in Texas
- Crowdsourcing's Golden Moment
- The Ethics of Housing and NIMBYism
- 2010 Affordable Housing Appeals List
- Housing Costs, Zoning, and Access to High-Scoring Schools
- School Inequality: Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk
- School Inequality: Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford
- School Inequality: New Haven-Milford
- PSC: Housing Doesn't Bring Students
- PSC: Housing Doesn't Lower Property Values
- PSC: Local Officials Assess Mixed-Income Housing
To view a recording of the event, please click here.