We talk about NIMBY’s all the time. You know, the folks who say, “Not In My Backyard”. But who are they? Mike Saint, chairman and CEO of The Saint Consulting Group, looks at the groups who oppose development and why.
He also contrasts the findings of Saint Index research with a recent column by Joyce Barker in an Iowa newspaper, who argued the real NIMBY’s are wealthy home owners with big mortgages who use historic preservation laws and other zoning regulations to protect themselves while claiming others (i.e. poorer neighborhoods) are selfishly fighting development that is good for the whole community. Let’s take a closer look.
Saint Index research shows that on average, in the US, they are white, male, middle aged, politically moderate, college educated, suburban home-owning., east and west coast dwellers — the folks with the education and resources to fight to protect their assets against unwanted encroachment.
In other words, they are the very folks many upscale home builders and retailers would like to attract as customers.
But these days we see folks in all communities, in all demographic areas, from all walks of life and political parties opposing new development in their communities. With 78% of Americans and 83% of Brits opposed to any new development in their communities, just about every demographic group is now included as a NIMBY.
Writes Joyce Barker in The Iowa Press Citizen:
“The quiet NIMBYs are those who live in the higher-priced neighborhoods, whose homes are protected by historical mandates that they have sought out like an invisible wall to protect their world.
“These hidden NIMBYs like to point their fingers and say that other areas of this town are full of NIMBYs, but it is just smoke and mirrors. By the zoning and neighborhood regulations that they worked to get through, they have become the most powerful NIMBYs around.
….“ We’re the same people who serve coffee to these uppercrust NIMBYs at their coffee stops, or who check out their purchases at their high-priced grocery stores.
….“ We’re not listed among the elite of Iowa City, but we take the brunt of making the elite’s pet projects look good — and we help them sleep well at night.
….“We don’t have any delusions of grandeur. We just want a safe neighborhood for our families to live without getting in over our heads.”
What Ms. Barker seems to be arguing is that her group’s opposition to a controversial homeless shelter is not about being a NIMBY but is about demanding the same safe neighborhoods the rich have.
In more than 1,100 controversial land use fights in three countries, we have seen all kinds of reasons given for opposing development:
v Protecting public safety
v Protecting the environment
v Protecting children
v Preserving history
No one ever argues they don’t want something built in their backyard because they want to keep things the way they are. They always argue it will harm the community in some way.
What is clear though is that whatever their justification for opposing new development, NIMBY’s are fighting to keep the status quo because they believe change (new real estate development) will adversely affect them.
So in response to the question, “Who are NIMBY’s?”
I would answer, “all of us who fear change and want to protect ourselves from it.”