In Hingham, a welcome to (well-heeled) black residents
Local effort wants racial, but not economic, diversity
IN THE END, Hingham’s gonna Hingham.
And so the tony town on Boston’s South Shore finds itself facing a bit of blowback following an effort to show that it wants to be known as something other than an almost-all white, upscale enclave of privilege.
It started when a local group recently formed and took on the name HinghamYIMBY — the acronym standing for “yes, in my backyard” — and said it wanted to promote Hingham as a welcoming place for families of color to move.
Hingham, a town of topsiders and Talbots devotees, is 99.8 percent white and 0.2 percent black, according to the 2019 US Census Bureau estimate. The new group says it wants to change that.
“We are talking about people who can afford to live in Hingham, and letting them know that they are welcome,” HinghamYIMBY founder Paul Cappers, a white longtime Hingham resident, told the Boston Globe. The article says median home values in the town are $742,000, according to Census data.
The YIMBY movement nationally has sprung up in high-cost cities — including Boston and Cambridge — and is grounded by a pro-growth call for more housing development, including more moderately-priced units to counter the trend of such places becoming increasingly affordable only to well-off buyers.
On its Facebook page, the Hingham group says, “We are dedicated to encouraging real estate purchases by people of all races to live in the wonderful town of Hingham.”
Or, as some in the broader YIMBY movement might say, the group is declaring that Hingham is open to all who can afford it.
“I recognize that the local contexts in various communities differ, and what may be the goal of YIMBY groups in places like Boston or Cambridge may not be the same in Hingham,” Jesse Kanson-Benanav, a founder of the Boston area’s first YIMBY chapter, A Better Cambridge, wrote on Twitter. “HOWEVER: at the core of *my* YIMBY movement is an effort to integrate communities, racially AND economically. Simply seeking to invite only *wealthy* people of color perpetuates a classist, and still exclusionary attitude. YIMBY is about building opportunities for people of all income levels, and ensuring that EVERY city and town does its part to build the dense, multifamily housing that is needed to address our regional housing crisis. It does not appear the new Hingham group shares this goal.”Cappers said he worries that would-be black homebuyers opt for places like Newton or Milton over HIngham because of the town’s past reputation of being hostile to blacks. “We are a NIMBY town. That’s the idea that’s projected. And our desire is to have the image of the town be what’s happening now, not what happened in the past,” he said.
No doubt watching this play out with at least a momentary pang for the past is Globe editor Brian McGrory. In his earlier days as Metro columnist, he made regular sport out of ridiculing the snooty ways of the good habitants of Hingham. The town’s not-quite-open-door version of YIMBY would have been very low-hanging fruit.