“NIMBYISM” (not in my backyard) is not so much about people not wanting affordable housing for others but about who owns it, who manages it and why they built it in the first place. Most developments are built because the developers and the investors make good money with tax credits while portraying themselves as caring about helping lower income individuals. Most are owned by investors who never see the property and have no interest in it other than the profit. They hire huge property management companies to manage these properties and whose goal is to make the best profit for their client. Along with the state and government agencies, they ignore laws as far as the conditions of the property and screening tenants. Basically, they all have made and are making good profits and could care less what happens to the development after that. A good example of this type of situation is toxic mold infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, La. managed (for the owners) by Riverstone Residential. This is ignored by The Louisiana Housing Finance Agency whose goal is to provide SAFE and affordable housing. These apartments are far from safe and all those involved are aware of this since a mold inspection was done during a sale in 2007 (other reports were done before that). They could care less. No wonder people are concerned, they should be. It’s not that people don’t want affordable housing, it’s the way it is done for the wrong reasons.
“NIMBYISM” (not-in-my-back-yard-ism) is something developers of apartment communities battle from time to time. Despite the low-cost, affordable choices rental housing provides, local governments sometimes make development difficult through exclusionary zoning practices and other red tape measures. The most recent example appears to be in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana – a suburb of New Orleans. The Times Picayune is reporting that the local Parish council is considering a ballot initiative that, if passed, would force multifamily housing developers to seek voter approval before building large sites. The measure is set for council approval on September 15, 2009.
Such measures are bad public policy for a number of reasons. Requiring voters to weigh-in on every development project in the locality would be time consuming, costly and inefficient. Every dime the developer spends in conducting its ballot initiative campaign will be passed to the residents of St. Bernard Parish. The cost of housing would increase as a result, and the ones most affected would be low income families. Moreover, because of the recent hurricanes, the New Orleans area needs more housing rather than less. Local parish governments should be giving builders and industries incentives, rather than making it more difficult to do business in their respective jurisdictions.
Requiring voter approval for multifamily housing projects is an idea that should send a shiver down the spines of business owners in all industries. If voter approval is required for apartments, how long before ballot initiatives are needed for other types of land development?
W. Michael Semko – Counsel/Vice President, National Lease Program, NAA