DEVELOPERS BEWARE: Economic woes, fear of change discourage development

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— New Projects Could Bolster Local Community Economies,

But Opposition, NIMBYism Still Strong —

Despite a steady stream of bad economic news, real estate developers are not going to find it easier to build, a new national survey by The Saint Consulting Group reports..

The need for jobs, new taxes and fear over a weakening economy are not motivating citizens to support new real estate development projects according to a nationwide Saint Index© Snapshot poll. Asked if, given the current state of the economy, they would support new development in their communities, only 29% of Americans would favor new development. In fact, a large majority – 60% – expect that the slowing economy will make development less likely in their communities, yet 75% still oppose relaxing land use regulations to encourage new local development.

Conducted by the Saint Consulting Group, an international consultancy specializing in land use politics, the poll was fielded by a professional market research company during May 2008 using a representative sample of 1,500 Americans, age 18 and older. NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) is a term used to describe community opposition to development.

“Despite the traditional use of development to bring new tax revenue into community treasuries during tough economic times, developers shouldn’t expect Americans to make it easier for them to build new projects,” said Patrick Fox, President of the Saint Consulting Group. “In fact, our poll shows that Americans believe the economy will make development less likely in their communities – and that’s fine with them. This is an emotional issue. People are acting to protect their real estate values, the character of their communities and their quality of life. Fear of change is a tremendous barrier for developers to overcome and few are adequately dealing with it.”

“Don’t Relax Land Use Regulations”

Only 25% of Americans believe their community should relax land use regulations to make it easier for local real estate development. The remainder opposes easing restrictions (41%) or says they are happy with existing regulations (35%). Opposition to easing restrictions soars to 49 percent among those aged 50 to 64, and is also particularly high among respondents with graduate degrees (52%) and earning more than $100,000 in annual salary (50%). By contrast, those most likely to favor relaxing land use regulations were under 34-years-old, earning less than $50,000 and located in the South.

Other Interesting Findings

  • While those earning more than $100,000 annually were most likely to oppose relaxing regulations, they were also much more likely than the norm to support new development
  • Men were much more likely to support more development (36%) than women (23%)
  • Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans were more likely than the norm to support more development, while African Americans and Caucasian Americans were more likely to oppose it
  • Opposition to development is strongest in the West (39%)
  • Married couples are more likely to support new development than unmarried people

About The Saint Consulting Group

The Saint Consulting Group began operations in 1983 and today is the global leader in land use political consultancy. Saint has 13 offices around the U.S. and international offices in London and Toronto. As experts in land use politics, Saint Consulting provides political campaign expertise to win complex or controversial planning decisions. Among the property sectors that use its services are: aggregates, food retail, shopping centers, hospitals, landfill, mixed-use developers, housing, and utilities.

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