Fear of Affordable Housing

Affordable housing developments proposed for affluent communities often face bitter, lengthy legal and political battles.

These battles tend to be driven by fear and exclusionary impulses. (The virulent resistance to racial integration in this country, and the federal government's ongoing failure to enforce the Fair Housing Act were recently reported on in-depth by ProPublica. It's a fascinating read. And George Romney comes off as quite a hero.)

But these days at at least, those are rarely the reasons opponents give publicly for their opposition. Instead they have a list of detailed, apparently practical concerns—traffic increases, strains on the schools and sewer systems, increase in crime, loss of property values.

Do these things come to pass? Rachel Bratt and and several masters students at Tufts University set out, at the request of Citizens' Housing and Planning Association, to find out. They closely examined four very controversial developments in Massachusetts, finding all the claims and concerns and then assessing whether they had come to pass. The results are striking, and mirror what Doug Massey found about the claims of opponents of Ethel Lawrence Homes in Mt. Laurel, NJ. 

How can we use results like this in the fight for fair housing?

Miriam Axel-Lute is CEO/editor-in-chief of Shelterforce. She lives in Albany, New York, and is a proud small-city aficionado.


  1. Is it possible to take the words “affordable housing” out of the conversation along with “under-served” or “economically disadvantaged?” Placing a label on someone (or something) brings up pre-conceived notions and ideas. People need shelter. People yearn for the American Dream. If you were to say, “housing for small business owners, teachers, firefighters, and peace officers” there wouldn’t be an issue. These, and others, are essential to the fabric of a community. According to some reports, these professionals are unable to purchase homes in the communities they serve. When you use different words and terminology, attitudes shift.


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