Denver Federal Center in the city of Lakewood, Colorado
NIMBY: Not in My Back Yard. Part of an ongoing collection of articles exploring some of the many ways that describe opposition in the face of a worldwide affordable housing crisis.
Lakewood, Colorado, is a ‘suburban city’ with no real downtown. Its homelessness problem has been inherited through its location in the region of metropolitan Denver, a city with a history of police sweeps to clear homeless people from the Denver downtown area. Currently, Denver is the defendant in a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of homeless people who believe their rights have been violated by these sweeps. (The latest on the suit from Westword: Homeless Class Action Lawsuit Could Be Heading Toward “Monster Trial”)
The particular homelessness problem inherited by Lakewood is an offshoot of Denver’s homelessness conflicts. A proposal has been made to create a thousand-person affordable housing complex on 59 acres of federal land beside Denver Federal Centre in Lakewood.
‘Way too Bigly-Bad’ is a description of the local NIMBY reactions, as it seems that the sheer mass of a thousand homeless is frightening to the locals, even if they are no longer homeless, which is the whole point of the proposed plan.
The other half of the NIMBY twofer — Too In-Tents — is local reaction to the staged transition of the homeless into permanent homes. For a period measured in years while permanent housing is being constructed, the once-homeless-but-not-quite-homed thousand would be put up in temporary housing that might indeed include insulated tents, albeit housing with all the basic amenities available such as heat, running water, and sanitation.
Both the size and the transitional nature of the project has alarmed Lakewood’s NIMBYites, who see themselves saddled with the homelessness/affordable housing crisis of an entire metropolitan area.
While those of us at affordablehousingaction.org are normally prone to eyerolling and cynicism when it comes to NIMBY, in this case we are inclined to feel that the Lakewood NIMBYites may have a point or two in their favour.
The ghettoization of large single classes of people has been considered one reason for the failure of social housing projects, and whether standing high-rise tall or tent tall, it might be argued that smaller affordable housing projects scattered throughout the region could serve mixed class development more successfully.
As for the ever-increasing possibility that federal funding might stall out part way through development, the spectre of a large, permanent transitional housing camp of insulated tents can hardly be expected to excite the local population.
For more read this story in the Denver Post: Opposition to proposed 1,000-person homeless housing project in Lakewood mounts