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Not in your backyard. How about theirs?

In 1598, when a theater was being built in London for William Shakespeare’s acting troupe, local residents figured theater-goers would disrupt the neighborhood so they blocked construction. The Globe Theater ended up being built across the Thames.

More recently, Falls Village, Goshen and Salisbury have all rejected affordable housing in areas that residents deemed too sensitive, too idyllic or too inappropriate for such use. New sites will have to be acquired or the projects cancelled.

Finding acceptable sites is harder today than in Shakespeare’s time. Local town officials and housing committees have labored for years to create more housing, but often encounter extremely agitated citizens who don’t want these projects anywhere near their neighborhoods.

Some Goshen residents claimed that any housing complex in their town would harm its rural character. Falls Villagers argued that their town’s percentage of affordable housing was already near state-prescribed levels. Salisbury actually voted down free land for new housing, although its existing Sarum Village complex separately added eight units.

By all accounts, more affordable housing is needed throughout the region to keep young people from moving away, to improve life for seniors, and to encourage immigration of families and workers to bolster our aging, shrinking population.

So where should more housing be built? Only in towns whose “character” would not be affected? In towns with fewer “sensitive” areas? In working-class towns that already have many low-income residents?

Perhaps affordable housing would be more palatable near the Housatonic River in North Canaan than near the same river in Lime Rock Station. Or in East Canaan with its quarries, campsites and sprawling farm acreage.

One issue raised in Falls Village was that eagles might become stressed if affordable housing was clustered there. Perhaps the large population of crows in North and East Canaan would be less fussy and more democratic about such things.

Falls Village residents even claimed that the proposed River Road housing site was too far to walk to town, although that hadn’t stopped current residents from living there. By comparison, Geer’s Beckley House for seniors is far from North Canaan’s town center, yet always has a waiting list.

In Salisbury, the problem was not too far from town but too close. Opponents objected to increased traffic in the village center and worried about what sort of people low-income housing would attract.

In Goshen, the issue was proximity to an upscale resort. Residents claimed to have 800 signatures opposing 20 units on eight acres near Woodridge Lake.

The petitioners, many of whom live at the lake, refused to submit their names for verification but insisted at a packed town meeting that the project be moved or cancelled. They even demanded “that this never happen again.” You’d think the proposal was for Three Mile Island or an asphalt plant rather than affordable housing.

The Goshen Housing Trust soon withdrew the proposal and instead signed an option to buy the Village Marketplace on the other side of town. This plan would convert existing apartments to affordable units but add no new housing overall.

Politically, those who oppose affordable housing in their own towns or neighborhoods are of all parties, but Democrats deserve special criticism for rejecting housing for local citizens (or for remaining silent about it) even as they demand unfettered access for millions of illegals at the southern border. As syndicated columnist Victor Davis Hanson writes: “The champions of open borders made sure that such influxes did not materially affect their own neighborhoods, schools and privileged way of life.”

The left’s stance on immigration is really just a political cudgel. It comes out against President Trump but was not used against President Obama, whose own deportations (409,000 in 2012) were far higher than Trump’s (256,000 in 2018). Nor did Obama’s detention centers become “concentration camps” until Trump used them.

Some of our more exclusive towns can’t even stomach having a hilltop tower that spoils their view, or a fast food restaurant in their midst, let alone too much affordable housing in plain sight. These towns rely on the working class (including migrants) to show up every week to service their upscale homes and estates and to tend their idyllic enclaves along the rivers and lakes and country lanes — but to live nearby, not so much.

Naturally, everyone involved is said to fully support affordable housing. It’s just a question of location, scale and environment.

The irony is that if these same locally imposed restrictions on housing were applied at the southern border, immigration there would screech to a halt.

Maybe that’s what Trump needs — a few local activists to relocate to the southern border where they would immediately demand that immigration be allowed only where it would not harm their own property values, increase traffic on their roads, or cause a jolt to their domestic tranquility.

The flood of illegals would slow to a trickle. Immigration crisis solved.

 

Mark Godburn is a bookseller in Norfolk and the author of “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets” (2016).