Overcoming NIMBY

What is NIMBY?

NIMBY stands for “Not In My Back Yard,” or the general opposition to many kinds of new development by nearby residents. NIMBYs may oppose industrial development, transportation improvements, and commercial expansions—but perhaps the most common pushback is against housing, especially when the proposed homes are more dense, or set aside for households with modest incomes.

Why should we “overcome” NIMBY?

A quality, stable home remains out of reach for many Virginians. In order to provide homes that are more affordable, both nonprofit and for-profit developers generally utilize forms of federal, state, or local subsides to offer rents and home prices below market values. Unfortunately, the public often has unfounded biases against such programs, due to misunderstandings and fear of the unknown. Other times, new housing may not even be “affordable” (i.e., using subsidies) and still encounters opposition, usually because residents are concerned that a development is “out of character” with the surrounding neighborhood.

In either case, opposition to new housing—both affordable and market rate—makes it more difficult to build and deliver homes that could improve the lives of our neighbors and community members. We must overcome NIMBY to bring more housing opportunities to Virginians, as well as educate residents about the importance of housing for healthy, vibrant communities.

How do we overcome NIMBY?

Transforming skeptical or fearful residents into allies is so simple task. Generally, we recommend the following guiding principles:

  1. Understand the thinking behind NIMBY response.
  2. Proactively and consistently engage with the community.
  3. Reframe your messages to avoid common backfires.
  4. Be transparent and make promises you can keep.

2018 Overcoming NIMBY 2.0 trainings

HousingForward Virginia conducted our first round of “Overcoming NIMBY” trainings in 2016. Since then, we’ve learned a lot more about the way the public thinks about housing. Most importantly, recent research demonstrates that housing advocates often communicate in counterproductive ways. In 2018, we launched revamped “Overcoming NIMBY 2.0” trainings. that incorporate these lessons. Click the link below to view the presentation from these workshops, and contact us if you’re interested in getting our help to overcome NIMBY in your community.

2018 Overcoming NIMBY 2.0 training presentation (PDF)

2019 Overcoming NIMBY 3.0

Immediately preceding the Governors Housing Conference, HousingForward Virginia hosted a sold out session of its latest Overcoming NIMBY training. This training dove into the latest research and best practices around the country in helping communities to understand the benefits of affordable housing and to overcome misconceptions, fears and opposition to new housing developments. Attendees heard from voices around the State with direct experience in moving public opinion and robust discussions regarding the causes and solutions to NIMBYism were had. Stayed tuned for a 2020 round of trainings on this important topic. 

Photo from the event
Senior Associate Jonathan Knopf leads the group in an activity.