Does Dave Chappelle Have a Problem With Affordable Housing?
Maybe, but that doesn’t seem to be what motivated the comedian’s tirade against a housing development earlier this year.
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What’s Going on With Dave Chappelle and Affordable Housing?
Image by Blake Wheeler from Unsplash.
Since February this year, comedian Dave Chappelle’s name has consistently been tied to his opposition to a housing development near his home in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In a public forum at a village council meeting, Chappelle took the floor to decry Oberer Homes’ plans filed with the village to construct a residential community on a 52-acre plot just north of his house.
He compared his company’s economic contributions to the village to the developer’s, saying, “I cannot believe you would make me audition for you. You look like clowns. I am not bluffing. I will take it all off the table,” effectively threatening to put a halt to his business activities in the 3,700-person village east of Dayton, should the plans come to pass.
Later during that meeting, the Yellow Springs council failed to pass the rezoning adjustment which would have allowed for Oberer’s proposed greenfield development to proceed. As a result, major news outlets from CNN to Rolling Stone reported that the comedian had “killed” affordable housing in the town.
The Only Problem? The Development Wasn’t Affordable.
It’s true: While there was the potential for an affordability component in the plan, Oberer Homes wouldn’t be the one building it — the plan under the proposed zoning merely called for the donation of a small parcel to the village to build “20 to 30 units,” according to a memo drafted by the village council president. And that parcel was actually the farthest part of the development site from the Chappelle home, and there was no timeline given or discussed for those units.
Also, without the approved rezoning, development could have still moved forward — just with a bit of reconfiguration, generally aimed at higher-priced single-family homes. But Chappelle also headed that off in April, according to local news, buying up at least 19 acres of Oberer’s land which abutted his property.
It’s an Important Mischaracterization
Clearly, mainstream news got it wrong — or at least presented it that way at the national level. While many accused Chappelle of NIMBYism against affordable housing, the reality appears to be that he doesn’t want anything in his backyard — that a small part could have potentially become affordable housing was purely incidental.
It’s still important to correct the record. While it may seem like a technicality — and in many ways it is — it’s a technicality that matters. With so many opponents of affordable housing already present in virtually every city in this country, it’s irresponsible to disingenuously add more fuel to the fire. Dave Chappelle may have acted selfishly, out of pure NIMBYism, or perhaps he didn’t. This blog doesn’t purport to have the answers, but the failure of the rezoning proposal didn’t remove affordable housing from the village: For all we know, the village may not have moved to build those homes for years, if ever.
So, What’s the Point?
Here’s the real issue: We know that affordable housing is in dire need across the country. New York City, Miami, and San Francisco need far more than they have. So, too, do smaller towns and villages like Yellow Springs. So, what happens when media outlets proclaim that public figures are staunchly against affordable housing or “killing” new affordable housing developments? Well, when reality doesn’t bear that out, it merely makes the critical work of affordable and public housing advocates all the more difficult.
The fact remains that affordable housing remains critically in need, and the sector can offer a significant investment upside to would-be investors or developers. Let’s not needlessly complicate that message.