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Strategies to overcome NIMBYism

Change can be a challenge for many people. When change is proposed in a neighbourhood or community, residents can be skeptical of, or even hostile towards, a new development. This phenomenon is often referred to as NIMBY, which is short for “not in my backyard”. The NIMBY phenomenon can be common for non-market housing developments due to some societal beliefs that non-market housing will have a negative effect on the character, socioeconomic status or quality of life in a neighbourhood. Common arguments are that there will be increases in crime, litter, thefts and violence, and that surrounding property values will decrease. Studies have shown that this is not the case, but for municipalities, NIMBYism can present significant barriers to the advancement of non-market housing in a community.

Positive versus negative public participation

Public participation can be positive or negative depending on the context. Positive public participation indicates a presence of community and that people are concerned about issues that extend beyond their own property. Examples may involve objections on land use, availability of amenities, access to schools or transit, vehicle traffic flow, or building design regulations so that the physical appearance is compatible with surrounding architecture.

Negative public participation, or NIMBYism, is when citizens put their own fears or expectations ahead of community requirements for alternative, innovative, social or special needs housing. Fear of strangers, crime, ethnic or racial prejudice or discrimination based on social or economic status may cause people to object to housing developments. NIMBYism can also be driven by personality conflicts, concerns over the quality of other municipal services or over previous disputes with elected officials or municipal administration that are unrelated to the proposed housing development. Municipalities should recognize that it is easier to change public attitudes towards housing than it is to change ingrained societal attitudes towards other people. Municipalities that are experiencing NIMBYism due to racism or discrimination are encouraged to access AUMA’s resources on how to create a more welcoming and inclusive community.

Resources to Address NIMBY