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New Group Formed to Take On NIMBYs

Brent Warren Brent Warren New Group Formed to Take On NIMBYsApartments under construction on Wilcox Street. Photo by Brent Warren.
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A new group has formed to advocate for more housing in urban Columbus. The founders of the organization, called Neighbors for More Neighbors Columbus, are hoping to push back against the Not-In-My-Backyard arguments that tend to dominate most discussions of new development in the city’s established neighborhoods.

“We’re here to raise the voice of community members who want to see more and diverse housing stock,” said Mindy Justis, a Downtown resident who is serving as spokesperson for the new group. “Our founders have been part of these conversations in our respective neighborhoods for years and saw the trend of pro-housing voices being drowned out by negativity.”

Those conversations historically have taken place almost exclusively within the context of specific development proposals – a developer wants to build something, and the neighbors who are most upset about the idea organize to oppose it, voicing their concerns in meetings and online as the proposal works its way through what can be a long and complicated approval process.

During that process, the people who are against a project are much more likely than those who may support it to take the time to submit comments to an area commission considering a rezoning request, for example, or to attend a four-and-a-half-hour long, weeknight meeting of the Columbus Development Commission.

The new group wants to present a side of the argument that often gets lost in those battles about specific projects.

“The facts show that in order to achieve some of our really important regional goals, we have to stop saying no to housing and start finding ways to say yes more often,” said Justis, citing a recent Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission report that described in great detail the need for more affordable housing in the region, and how one strategy for tackling that need is simply to build a lot more housing, of every type.

“It might be hard to believe, but even with all of the construction going on, we haven’t been building enough housing…150,000 fewer people live in urban Columbus today than in 1960,” added Justis. “Housing costs have been soaring. It’s important to stabilize prices to keep our market affordable enough for new residents, rather than contracting the market, which doesn’t benefit any of us regardless of whether we own or rent.”

The group has launched a website, which makes the pro-housing case via maps, charts, and photos showing what dense development has looked like historically in certain Columbus neighborhoods. The site also features blog posts on a variety of related topics, including the environmental and equity-based arguments for supporting more housing in urban neighborhoods.

Neighbors for More Neighbors Columbus is a licensed chapter of a Minneapolis group that was established in 2017 and received national attention for its campaign in support of zoning reform efforts in the city.

“We were inspired by the work done in Minnesota…we intend to learn from them, draw ideas from what’s worked, and then shape our own path based on what’s best for Central Ohio,” said Justis.

Justis is joined by three other founding members; Josh Lapp (an Olde Towne East resident), Michael Wilkos, and Matthew Adair (both Weinland Park residents).

For now they are encouraging anyone interested in the group to check out the website and sign up to receive their newsletter. In the future, the plan is to engage on the policy front – especially when it comes to Columbus’ planned zoning code update – while also serving as a resource for those who want to participate directly in their own neighborhood’s conversations about individual development proposals.

Justis said that the primary goal of the organization at this early stage is to “embolden pro-housing advocates to speak up [and to] connect folks who support a wide variety of housing types and adding more supply to our market.”

For more information, see www.morecolumbusneighbors.org.

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