If you don’t want new neighbors, then where should people move to?
When new residential projects are proposed, many opponents claim there are too many people already, traffic is too bad, school districts can’t absorb more children, etc. But we can’t deny that Central Ohio is growing. We are growing due to expanding families and in-migration from across Ohio and the world. People are attracted here due to educational opportunities and an expanding job market. We have been successful in our economic development efforts to attract companies and jobs, and the The Ohio State University continues to grow. So where should our expanding population live?
One answer is, “I don’t know, just not near me!” If that’s your answer, that’s a concept called not in my backyard (NIMBY). This is the idea that you might, on a theoretical level, acknowledge people are moving here and we need more housing—but where you live is not the best place for new neighbors to live.
A “Not In My Backyard” attitude pushes housing to places where residents don’t have the time, experience, or political capital to fight projects.
This kind of attitude often ends up pushing housing development to places where residents don’t have the time, experience, or political capital to stop them. The idea that no one else should be moving to your neighborhood—that it’s somehow full—can be referred to as a “shut the door behind you” stance, implying that you should be the last person allowed to live in your community and future development after you is inherently bad. If you don’t think people should be moving into your neighborhood, it is worth reflecting on the reasons you love your community and empathize that those same reasons will make others love it as well.
Often when communities are only partially built out, residents want to close the door behind them. This belief is common in urban and suburban areas; yet the reality is our region adds 25,000 additional people annually and nearly every urban neighborhood has thousands less people than in 1960. Trying to stop residential development isn’t getting at the root of any major problems, it’s just a distraction.
Neighbors for More Neighbors—Columbus supports more housing in every neighborhood, not just those that don’t have the power to fight proposed projects.
If people don’t move to urban neighborhoods, or suburban areas that still have available sites, the only places left to accommodate growth will be farm fields in places like Delaware, Union, Licking, and Fairfield counties. If we continue past the low-density fringe development, 700 square miles of Central Ohio farmland will be lost to development. Our region will continue growing, and we must build more housing to accommodate this growth. We need to make sure this future growth addresses economic segregation and manages our infrastructure costs by not extending miles of roads, sewers, and utility lines even further into our scenic and productive countryside.
The question remains for all of us to answer: “If you don’t want new neighbors near you, where specifically should the 25,000 people we add annually live?”