EHC Naysayer Rebuttals

When Expanding Housing Choices (EHC) was under consideration, I heard a ton of arguments against it. In a lot of ways, these arguments mirrored general NIMBY arguments. I wanted to compile a list of what I have heard, examine their validity, and come up with quick rebuttals that you can use in polite conversation.

Anti-EHC Argument #1: More infill construction is bad for the environment

This argument is coming from people who already have a place to live and have already "done damage" to the environment through the construction of their own home. It is pretty widely accepted that denser neighborhoods actually have less of a negative impact on the environment, on a per person basis. If you want to be green, be dense! Denser development means less need for expensive and environmentally costly infrastructure like more roads, more driving, etc as well.

Rebuttal: People have to live somewhere. Would you rather send them to clear more forestland on the edges and make them commute further in gas-guzzling cars? Sprawl is WAY worse for the environment.

Anti-EHC Argument #2: Traffic congestion will be a problem

I find this argument amusing from my neighborhood listserv in particular. Traffic has never ONCE hindered me in and around my neighborhood. It becomes an issue on 147 and I-40 because we have created this pattern of sprawl.

Rebuttal: When was the last time you were delayed from congestion IN the neighborhood? If we allow people to live closer to jobs, there will be less congestion on highways then there otherwise would have been.

Anti-EHC Argument #2A: But have you seen how FAST the cars go on my street?

Rebuttal: Yes! That's a problem, but it doesn't relate to the number of people living here. Let's support traffic calming techniques! I'll help you approach city council, in fact!

Anti-EHC Argument #3: We will lose the historic character of the neighborhood

"Historic" character is specifically aimed at a certain time period - the 50's, 60's and 70's. Beforehand, neighborhood "character" changed all the time. We used to build shacks and then expand them as we had more resources. Boarding houses used to be a big part of neighborhoods. So, the NIMBY's don't really want to preserve "history", they want to preserve the current state of the neighborhood, one where their property values continue to rise and there is no risk of "undesirables" coming into the neighborhood.

Rebuttal: Historically, neighborhoods have grown and changed with the times. Preserving the neighborhood in amber is not historically accurate.

Anti-EHC Argument #4: EHC will invite more crime to the neighborhood!

This argument causes a lot of uproar. NIMBYs start to get accused of being racist and classist. In some cases, the NIMBY's ARE those things. However, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they are just irrationally thinking that more people means a neighborhood that is closer to a city's downtown and since a lot of people grew up in an era when downtowns were bad places, they want to avoid that outcome.

Rebuttal: Adding ADUs for extended family, working class renters, students, etc will not turn this neighborhood into a bustling downtown. Furthermore, the more people you have in a neighborhood, the better the community watch as there are more "eyes on the street".

Anti-EHC Argument #5: The only reason EHC is happening is so developers can get rich and the city council is in developers' back pocket.

Developers only get rich because they take on so much risk. Imagine if you went to Vegas with your lifesavings and could either lose it all, or earn a modest 5% return. Nobody would ever go to Vegas! Similarly, the fact is, if developer returns weren't large, nothing would ever get built! Who would risk losing so much if there weren't a payoff in the end. Meanwhile, it is disingenuous to say that city council is in developer's back pocket by passing something like EHC. City council realizes that Durham needs more housing. Developers are in the business of building housing. Just because these goals happen to align, doesn't mean anything nefarious is going on!

Rebuttal: Unless you want to overthrow capitalism, that's the only way we are going to get much needed housing in the area. And believe me, developers can make much more money by knocking down trees and building environmentally devastating sprawl elsewhere!

There are more arguments. Thankfully, I haven't heard any of the classic NIMBY arguments like "there will be a loss of green space" because that doesn't really apply to EHC, where you are building on existing lots.

Next post, I will give some love to the other side. Be on the lookout for "Why I Don't Hate NIMBYs"!

In the meantime, do you hear other anti-EHC arguments? Share them and any rebuttals you have in the forums!

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