Six Steps to Building Community Support for Affordable Housing and Services
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Six Steps to Building Community Support for Affordable Housing and Services Michael Allen Relman & Dane, PLLC National Alliance to End Homelessness July 11, 2007. Contact Information. Michael Allen Relman & Dane, PLLC 1225 19th Street, N.W., Suite 600 Washington, D.C.  20036-2456

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Contact information

Six Steps to Building Community Support for Affordable Housing and ServicesMichael AllenRelman & Dane, PLLCNational Alliance to End HomelessnessJuly 11, 2007

Contact information
Contact Information Housing and Services

Michael Allen

Relman & Dane, PLLC

1225 19th Street, N.W., Suite 600

Washington, D.C.  20036-2456

202/728-1888, ext. 114

FAX:  202/728-0848



Confronting common nimby concerns
Confronting Common NIMBY Concerns Housing and Services

Defining nimbyism
Defining NIMBYism Housing and Services

  • Communities have said it many times: “We don’t oppose housing for poor people. We just think it ought to be located somewhere else.”

  • This phenomenon, often described as “NIMBYism” (deriving from the acronym, “Not In My Back Yard”), appears to be nearly universal, occurring with different variations on a common theme in urban, suburban and rural areas from coast to coast.

What you are likely to hear
WHAT YOU ARE LIKELY TO HEAR Housing and Services

  • We have worked all our lives to buy this house. Now you want to come in here with this affordable housing and rob us of our life’s savings.

  • No one in his right mind would ever buy my house now that a group home is next door.

  • My brother-in-law is a real estate agent. He says that it will take much longer to sell my house, and that I won’t get my investment back out of it now that there are apartments going up down the block.

  • We have enough apartments in this town already. We ought to be encouraging single-family home ownership, which will help protect the value of our homes.

Most common opposition concerns

  • While extensive research over more than 25 years has disproved these concerns, they are still raised anew in almost every conflict over affordable housing:

    • Property values

    • Crime rates

    • Character of the neighborhood will change

    • Affordable housing is badly designed and cheaply built and will be unattractive

    • Affordable housing contributes to overcrowding of public schools

Property values research findings
Property Values: Research Findings Housing and Services

  • A...single-family home values in the neighborhood of [affordable housing projects] are not adversely affected by their proximity to those projects. Indeed, in some cases, home values are actually higher the nearer the home is to [such a project].

    • Paul M. Cummings and John D. Landis, Relationships between Affordable Housing Developments and Neighboring Property Values, (Univ. of California at Berkeley, Sept. 1993)

Crime and affordable housing research findings
Crime and Affordable Housing: Research Findings Housing and Services

  • There is no evidence of an increase in crime resulting from the introduction of affordable housing into a neighborhood. In fact, much of the affordable housing now being developed in inner cities and older neighborhoods replaces broken-down and crime-ridden buildings and can serve to reduce the neighborhood crime rate

    • Urban Institute, The Impacts of Supportive Housing on Neighborhoods and Neighbors (April 2000).

Character of the neighborhood
“Character of the Neighborhood” Housing and Services

  • If an affordable housing project can locate “by right” on a particular parcel, the uneasiness of neighbors cannot be an obstacle to such a use. If variances are routinely granted for other uses but withheld for affordable housing, such practices might be challenged if they discriminate on the basis of race, national origin or disability.

Affordable housing and design
Affordable Housing and Design Housing and Services

  • The most prestigious architectural award in the nation—the American Institute of Architects National Honor Award—has been won by affordable housing developments.

    • HomeBase, Building Inclusive Community (1996)

Affordable housing and schools research findings
Affordable Housing and Schools: Research Findings Housing and Services

  • According to the Census Bureau's current population survey in 1998, 20% of all occupied apartments had one or more school-aged children, compared to 33% of owner-occupied single-family homes. The average apartment household had 0.3 children, while single-family homes had 0.6 children.

    • National Multi Housing Council, Debunking the Homeownership Myth (September 1998)

Political support public support community issues legal rights public relations

Political Support Housing and Services

Public Support

Community Issues

Legal Rights

Public Relations 

Step One: Meet to Develop Strategy in Five Areas

Step one planning
Step One: Planning Housing and Services

Meet and Assess:

  • Local government’s current knowledge of and support for your organization’s work, and the current proposal.

  • Full analysis of the neighborhood surrounding the proposed site

  • Likely concerns neighbors might have and potential for organized opposition

  • Potential legal issues

  • The media’s view of your work and clients.

Step two political strategy
Step Two: Political Strategy Housing and Services

  • Get to know your local government players and policies.

  • Find ‘key leaders’ in every community; to find them always ask: “Who else should I talk with about this?”

  • Identify solid supporters, committed opponents, and uncertain votes.

  • If the vote were taken tonight, do you know who would vote for and against your proposal?

  • Determine education, advocacy efforts needed to keep supporters, neutralize opponents, win uncertain votes.

Step three building public support
Step Three: Building Public Support Housing and Services

  • Ensure active, vocal community support

  • Develop solid support before contacting potential opponents.

  • Don’t spend all your time responding to opponents.

  • Identify and prioritize actual and potential supporters

  • Plan recruitment of supporters and what you want them to do

  • Organize and support your allies with background information, housing tours and up-to-date information.

  • Mobilize supporters at critical points (e.g. using a database and fax sheets.)

  • Keep them informed and encouraged.

Step four dealing with community issues
Step Four: Dealing with Community Issues Housing and Services

  • Notification and community out-reach

  • Consider alternative methods for community outreach (e.g. door-to-door canvassing, open-house forums or small house meetings) instead of the large open community meetings.

  • Only when you understand why a person opposes, can you select the best response.

  • Find out the probable basis of their concerns before fashioning a response (e.g. misinformation, fears about impacts, expectation to participate, prejudice, or issues unrelated to your proposal.)

Step five legal strategy
Step Five: Legal Strategy Housing and Services

  • Identify your organization’s and prospective tenants’ legal rights and learn how to spot potential legal violations.

  • If your proposal is likely to encounter illegal discrimination or raise complex legal issues, contact legal assistance immediately to learn what you should do now to protect your rights, and how and when to get further legal assistance.

Step six public relations strategy
Step Six: Public Relations Strategy Housing and Services

  • Decide if you want to generate or merely respond

  • Designate and prepare a spokesperson

  • Develop your message(s) and alternative stories for your target audiences (e.g. decision-makers).

  • Prepare brief, easily-faxable, fact sheets

  • Invite reporters for a tour of your existing facilities and to meet your staff and clients.

  • Follow-up on any coverage you receive with thank yous and corrections.

  • Develop on-going relationships with media

Case study engaging the community
Case Study: Housing and ServicesEngaging the Community

  • Pine Street Inn (PSI) provides street outreach, emergency shelter, health care, job training, and housing to 1,300 Bostonians every day. It consciously involves neighbors prior to opening permanent supportive housing for homeless people.

  • In early 1993 PSI learned that a large duplex on Rockwell Street was being offered for sale. PSI decided to buy and renovate the building to provide ten single room occupancy (SRO) units and an on-site manager’s apartment.

Pine street inn
Pine Street Inn Housing and Services

  • Converting the building to an SRO required zoning relief. The city’s planning staff said that couldn’t be granted without a public hearing. But PSI knew that a public hearing was often a method of deflecting political fallout from the planning commissioners and city council members onto the housing provider, and that neighbors had begun to organize against the project within days of its announcement.

Pine street inn1
Pine Street Inn Housing and Services

  • PSI put together a plan for getting political support. It focused on elected officials and neighborhood residents. PSI provided tours of the proposed site, and subsequently made a presentation to the entire neighborhood organization.

Pine street inn2
Pine Street Inn Housing and Services

  • Prior to the public hearing, PSI staff conducted intensive door-to-door canvassing on and near Rockwell Street, in order to:

    • (1) meet the majority of residents and explain the project;

    • (2) answer questions about all aspects of the project; and

    • (3) determine the extent of initial opposition.

  • This work put many neighbors’ concerns to rest, and actually produced a number of supporters. The neighborhood organization even wrote a strong letter of support.

Pine street inn3
Pine Street Inn Housing and Services

  • After a nine month effort, the project received all necessary approvals and construction began. The facility welcomed its first residents in early 1995. The building is widely recognized as the best-kept on the block, helping to increase property values of surrounding homes.

  • See

Best practices

Best Practices Housing and Services

Things Local Governments Can Do To Comply with Civil Rights Laws and Create an Environment More Conducive to the Development of Affordable Housing

Housing friendly land use policies

  • Austin, Texas: SMART Housing, which works with developers to ensure submissions that respond to legitimate community concerns about land use impacts and which explicitly rejects extraneous grounds of opposition. By getting the developer and the neighbors at the same table early in the process, the staff is able to identify and deal with legitimate land use issues, and it does so very quickly. Its internal goal is to have a zoning application on the docket of City Council for final action within 45 days after it is filed.

Housing friendly land use policies1

  • Portland, Oregon: The Office of Neighborhood Involvement has instituted the Community Residential Siting Program (CRSP), which is designed to be a centralized point of information and referral to deal with questions and concerns around the siting of residential social services as well as provide mediation and facilitation services for groups in conflict.

Housing friendly land use policies2

  • Montgomery County, Maryland: The Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program is a form of inclusionary zoning which rewards developers with additional density and requires them to incorporate moderately priced units in every new development of 50 or more units, reserving to the county housing authority the first right of purchase of rental units.

Housing friendly land use policies3

  • In 1998, the New Jersey Department of Human Services launched a public education program to increase public awareness about people with disabilities and the kinds of community living arrangements in which they reside. Under the program, called “Good Neighbors, Community Living for People with Disabilities,” DHS representatives reach out to municipal officials, private organizations and New Jersey residents to provide information and to answer their questions, in hopes of achieving broader public acceptance and accommodations for people with disabilities.

Housing friendly land use policies4

  • The City of Rochester and surrounding jurisdictions won a HUD “Blue Ribbon” award in 1999 for developing a Fair Housing Action Plan designed to overcome impediments to fair housing experienced by low-income people of color, families with children and people with disabilities.

  • The significance of these efforts is that they were accomplished through a unique intergovernmental cooperation and extensive public/private partnership; it is metropolitan in scope; there has been significant public involvement; and there is a commitment to implementation.

Fair share housing programs
“Fair Share” Housing Programs Housing and Services

  • While the effort to enact “fair share” legislation has taken a unique path in each of the following jurisdictions, the impetus has common roots. Spurred by a sense that people of color and people with low-incomes were systemically excluded from affordable housing opportunities and that, left to its own devices, the private market would continue to foster segregated communities, the civil rights and affordable housing advocacy communities coalesced behind reform efforts.

Massachusetts Housing and Services

  • Statewide legislation in Massachusetts, has been credited with producing 25,000 affordable housing units since its passage in 1969.

  • The statute sets a goal that each city and town should have at least 10 percent of its housing stock defined as affordable or subsidized housing. If an affordable housing proposal were denied in a town with less than 10 percent, the developer could appeal the decision at the state level to the Housing Appeals Committee.

New jersey
New Jersey Housing and Services

  • New Jersey’s Mount Laurel doctrine, requires all New Jersey municipalities to zone for their “fair share” of affordable housing.

  • In the most densely populated state in the nation, the mandate was initially seen as a way to stem the tide of increasing racial and economic segregation.

  • Through nearly 30 years of living under the state policy, thousands of units have been built for people who could not afford market rate housing.

  • Much of that housing has been built because of the “builder’s remedy,” which provides that developers can bypass significant zoning and land use approvals in cities and towns that do not have their fair share of affordable housing.

California Housing and Services

  • Every city and county in California must adopt a comprehensive “general plan” to govern its land use and planning decisions. All planning and development actions must be consistent with the general plan. The general plan must contain 7 elements, including a housing element. The housing element must “make adequate provision for the housing needs of all economic segments of the community.”

For more information
For More Information Housing and Services

  • Massachusetts “anti-snob” zoning law: Aaron Gornstein, Executive Director, Citizen’s Housing and Planning Association, 18 Tremont Street, Suite 401, Boston, MA 02108.  Phone/TTY: 617-742-0820.  E-mail:

  • New Jersey “Mount Laurel” doctrine: Susan Bass Levin, Chairman, Council on Affordable Housing, 101 South Broad Street, P.O. Box 813, Trenton, NJ 08625. Telephone: (609) 292-3000. Website:

  • California “Housing Element” Law: Diane Spaulding, Executive Director, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, 369 Pine Street, Suite 350, San Francisco, CA 94104. Telephone: 415/989-8160. Michael Rawson, California Affordable Housing Law Project of the Public Interest Law Project, 449 15th Street, Suite 301, Oakland, CA 94612. Telephone: (510) 891-9794, ext. 145

For more information1
For More Information Housing and Services

  • Montgomery County “Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit” program: Eric B. Larsen, MPDU Coordinator, Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Phone: 240-777-3713. E-mail: . Website:

  • Austin “S.M.A.R.T. Housing”: Stuart Hersh, Neighborhood Housing and Conservation Department, City of Austin. Telephone: 512-974-3154. E-mail: . Karen Paup, Co-Director, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, 508 Powell Street Austin, TX 78703-5122. Telephone: 512/477-8910.

  • PortlandCommunity Residential Siting Program: Eric King Coordinator, Referrals and Information Services, , City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement, City Hall, 1221 SW Fourth Avenue, Room 110, Portland, Oregon 97204. Telephone: 503/823-2030

For more information2
For More Information Housing and Services

  • New Jersey “Good Neighbors” Program: Margaret Sabin, Office of Public Affairs, New Jersey Department of Human Services, 240 West State Street, P.O. Box 700, Trenton, NJ 08625. Telephone: (609) 633-8652. E-Mail:

  • Rochester Fair Housing Planning: Thomas R. Argust, Commissioner, Department of Community Development , City Hall, Room 125-B, 30 Church Street. Rochester, NY 14614 . Telephone: 716/428-6550

Ten tips to ensure fair zoning and land use hearings
Ten Tips to Ensure Fair Zoning and Land Use Hearings Housing and Services

  • Establish a maximum time frame for the hearing in advance and enforce it

  • Consider recording the hearing, through tape recording or other mechanism

  • Arrange for a presentation from the developer; arrange for a presentation from planning staff or other official to set forth a staff recommendation and any objective issues that must be addressed

Ten tips to ensure fair zoning and land use hearings1
Ten Tips to Ensure Fair Zoning and Land Use Hearings Housing and Services

  • Identify one person who will manage the meeting

  • Before the hearing begins, remind all participants to listen respectfully, to remain polite, not to interrupt others, or engage in cross talk.

  • Maintain an official sign in sheet that includes the name, address and phone number for each speaker. Call speakers in order

  • Establish an order for speakers. The order may be in order of sign in, or sign in may be divided into speakers who are pro and con the proposed action and the speakers may alternate.

Ten tips to ensure fair zoning and land use hearings2
Ten Tips to Ensure Fair Zoning and Land Use Hearings Housing and Services

  • Limit the amount of time each speaker may take and announce that amount of time on the sign in sheet. Enforce it.

  • If any speaker makes discriminatory remarks the speaker should caution them and the audience about making discriminatory remarks. If any speaker makes profane or foul remarks, stop the speaker, and caution them and the audience about making such remarks

  • Consider taking a vote or making a decision at another meeting to avoid demonstrations from the audience about an unpopular decision

Nimby resources
NIMBY Resources Housing and Services

  • Building Better Communities Network (information clearinghouse and communication forum dedicated to building inclusive communities and to successfully siting affordable housing and community services.).


Nimby resources cont d
NIMBY Resources (cont’d) Housing and Services

Addressing Community Opposition to Affordable Housing Development: A Fair Housing Toolkit, available at

Nimby resources cont d1
NIMBY Resources (cont’d) Housing and Services

  • Corporation for Supportive Housing:

  • Fair Housing: The Siting of Group Homes for People with Disabilities and Children (National League of Cities, 2000)(Local Officials Guide series)

Nimby resources cont d2
NIMBY Resources (cont’d) Housing and Services

  • Group Homes, Local Land Use, and the Fair Housing Act (Joint Statement of the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1999)

  • “Why Not in Our Back Yard?” 45 Planning Commissioners Journal 4 (Winter 2002), available at

Nimby resources cont d3
NIMBY Resources (cont’d) Housing and Services

  • The NIMBY Report

  • (The NIMBY Report supports inclusive communities by sharing news of the NIMBY syndrome and efforts to overcome it. Published for nearly 10 years by the American Friends Service Committee, it is now published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in collaboration with the Building Better Communities Network.

Nimby resources cont d4
NIMBY Resources (cont’d) Housing and Services

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

  • (Organization and website dedicated to enforcement of civil and constitutional rights of people with disabilities)


    • What Fair Housing Means for People with Disabilities

    • Digest of Cases and Other Resources on Fair Housing for People with Disabilities

Nimby resources cont d5
NIMBY Resources (cont’d) Housing and Services

  • No Room for the Inn: A Report on Local Opposition to Housing and Social Services Facilities For Homeless People in 36 United States Cities (National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, 1995)

  • Building Inclusive Community: Tools to Create Support for Affordable Housing (HomeBase/The Center for Common Concerns, 1996)