Dave Chappelle vs Affordable Housing

An Ohio village Monday failed to approve a zoning ordinance that included dozens of affordable housing units after opposition from comedian Dave Chappelle, who called the Village Council “clowns” and threatened that his business ventures would be “off the table.”

Yellow Springs, Chappelle’s hometown, is the planned site of the entertainer’s restaurant, Firehouse Eatery, and comedy club, Live from YS, which are under development in an old village firehouse, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported last year.

Chappelle has previously threatened to pull his business investments from the town if the development were approved as proposed. He has not publicly specified exactly what he opposes in the plan.

The Dayton Daily News reported that at a meeting in December, Chappelle told the council he was “adamantly opposed” and that he has “invested millions of dollars in town,” adding, “If you push this thing through, what I’m investing in is no longer applicable.”

Chappelle reiterated his opposition when the zoning change came up for a vote Monday.

At that meeting, according to video posted to the Yellow Springs Community Access YouTube page, Chappelle wondered why the council would pursue the housing plan “while it kicks out a $65 million-a-year company.”

“I cannot believe you would make me audition for you. You look like clowns,” Chappelle said Monday. “I am not bluffing. I will take it all off the table.”

With one recusal, only four council members were available, and the vote deadlocked at 2-2, ensuring that the new housing development cannot proceed, the Dayton Daily News reported.

In a statement to NBC News on Thursday, Chappelle spokesperson Carla Sims said, “Neither Dave nor his neighbors are against affordable housing, however, they are against the poorly vetted, cookie-cutter, sprawl-style development deal which has little regard for the community, culture and infrastructure of the Village.” 

Documents posted by the Village Council showed that the proposal was pitched as a way to reduce the cost of housing and allow workers for village services to live near their jobs.

Without the higher-density and affordable home units, Council President Brian Housh said in a memo, the starting price for homes in the development could jump by $100,000.

Sims described the development deal as “anything but affordable.”

“Three out of 143 lots would have been for ‘future’ affordable housing. The rest of the homes were to be priced between $250k and upwards of $600k. In Yellow Springs, and in many other places, that is not considered affordable housing. Instead, it’s an accelerant on the homogenization of Yellow Springs.”

In an email on Thursday, council member Marianne MacQueen, who voted in favor of the zoning change, said she supported what she described as “a mixed housing development” that “had an affordable housing component.”

“It was not intended nor was it described as an affordable housing development,” MacQueen wrote. “Our staff worked for over a year to get the best deal we could given the alternative that we now WILL have, of upper middle class single family homes.”

“Housing is a very tough issue for all communities and Yellow Springs, as a small desirable village with an economy increasingly geared toward tourism, faces the issues of having out-of-reach housing costs for a significant segment of our community,” MacQueen wrote.

“We won’t know how the [zoning change] would have impacted the sense of community and we will have to find out how the single family subdivision fits. My goal is to work with the developer to do the best we can do.”

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