The election tomorrow is about housing. Even when it’s about parks, it’s actually about housing. And all candidates claim to be pro-housing, which makes it hard to know whom to support. Our hot take? Vote for those who are “yes and” not “yes but” on housing.
“Yes and” candidates lead with housing while recognizing that we have other problems to solve. “Yes but” candidates lead with problems that they deem necessary to solve before we can house people. Chapel Hill and to a lesser extent Carrboro are “yes but” towns.
You know the buts: New housing can’t be
- In my neighborhood
- Too tall or too stocky
- Built too quickly
- For certain types of people
- In or even near historic districts
- Built by developers
Even when the yes buts offer “solutions” they block or stall housing. They say we can only have housing if we get a skate park first, or citizens approve the design, or the project solves unrelated stormwater issues, or if it’s 100% for sale units.
Or we can only have 100% affordable housing (even though that’s nearly impossible to build without substantial subsidies).
Or all housing must have ground floor retail (even when it’s in a location without the density to support retail).
Or it must include a park, or it’s on land where we think there should be a park.
The “yes but” proponents take no responsibility for our housing crisis. They blame UNC, students, renters, evil developers, inept town staff, UNC again, corrupt council members, and former Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. Anyone but those who have working to block housing here for DECADES.
The “yes but” proponents claim to have the answer to our housing crisis: Make someone else fix it. They want UNC to put all students on UNC land so they don’t destroy our college town, and they want UNC to build housing to house UNC employees. Which is a fine idea, and all it requires is convincing the Republican leadership in Raleigh (that hates Chapel Hill) to agree to spend money on housing in Chapel Hill, even though they have demonstrated a continued unwillingness to do so.
We have one “yes but” candidate running for mayor and four running for Town Council in Chapel Hill, and two “yes but” candidates running for Carrboro Town Council. It’s incredibly easy to find excuses to not build housing. Believe these people when they signal to you that housing is not a priority for them.
“Yes and” candidates acknowledge that housing is critical and challenging to address. That it involves tradeoffs. That it requires listening to people who are actual housing experts—that includes town staff and, yes, people who build housing. A great thing about the “yes and” candidates is that they would begin their work from a position of yes. That gets them closer to solutions. That puts them closer to people already working on solutions. That means they will listen to experts.
The “yes but” candidates are convinced they know more than housing experts. They would begin their work, at best, learning how little they actually know. At worst, they will fight or ignore experts on town staff. Either way, precious time will be wasted, in the midst of the greatest affordable housing crisis in generations.
Strangely, our area—one of the most innovative in America, filled with people who deeply value learning and expertise—has fallen in love with stasis. We have become proud of not changing and more invested in preserving wealth rather than creating opportunity.
This is indeed a change election. It’s an opportunity to once again embrace our potential to solve problems rather than dwell on them. To govern from a place of hope, not fear. To welcome new people and new ideas. To make us once again the most progressive place in the South.
Get out and vote.
Our endorsements for Carrboro:
Vote for Barbara Foushee for Mayor, Catherine Fray, Eliazar Posada, and Jason Merrill for Town Council.
Our endorsements for Chapel Hill:
Vote for Jess Anderson for Mayor, Melissa McCullough, Theodore Nollert, Amy Ryan, and Jon Mitchell for Town Council.