‘Neighborhood character’ is one of the most powerful NIMBY weapons that can be aimed at affordable housing. The neighborhood itself has a superficial existence in the eyes of all beholders, rich and poor, white, black or brown, passers-by or long term residents. But for many current residents, the character of the neighborhood is a historic evolutionary space with an apex of civilization at the moment of now. From a NIMBY perspective, anything that pulls the neighborhood character away from that rich and fulfilling now-ness must be challenged and resisted, tooth and nail.
It’s fascinating then, to consider the possibilities of housing development in a community of artists — a class of residents who do not see character as a moment of perfection that coincidentally has just arrived, but whose perception of the neighborhood embraces a changing character.
Further turning the relationship between character and affordability on its head, artists have most often taken up residence in a neighborhood because of its affordability, something which virtually all have a strong interest in preserving even as the neighborhood moves forward with the times.
Artists in the RiNo district of Denver Colorado have just such a strong interest in both neighborhood character AND affordability, not neighborhood character OR affordability, the NIMBY battleground of a great many other communities which are coming to grips with an affordable housing crisis.
For more on ways that an existing artistic community may provide a more productive and collaborative view of how character and affordability can coexist, read in the Colorado Real Estate Journal: RiNo: Design Guidelines, Zoning Overlays