Rise of the YIMBYs

Rise of the YIMBYs

Andrew Hedge 24 Nov, 2017

You would think, at a glance, that pin-striped property developers and avocado-addicted, socially-progressive millennials would make for rather strange bedfellows.

However, in recent years, an international, grass-roots community movement has seen the latter take up arms in zealous support of the former.

They’re called the YIMBYs, and they’re gaining political momentum in cities that are home to both the well-heeled and the young, the creative and the progressive.

Sounds radical. What’s going on?

This lively social movement has its roots in the comparatively prosaic world of urban housing policy.

Zoning land is surely one of the most unenviable tasks of government (at any level). In Australia, council planning teams, who are tasked with this job, are wedged squarely between state government-imposed housing targets and the established local communities who are (often justifiably) concerned about the impacts of new developments on the amenity and character of their beloved neighbourhoods.

This community opposition to local development is not strictly an Australian phenomenon. Internationally, these groups who object to local development became colloquially known as the NIMBYs, for their ‘Not-In-My-Back-Yard’ attitude to development (that’s not to say these groups were entirely anti-development – in fact, many support the need for development, just N-I-M-B-Y!)
See also: the perhaps slightly more pejorative BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone).

Something had to give

In this climate of agnst about housing affordability and community objection to development, the YIMBY (Yes, In My Backyard!) movement was born.

The YIMBYs are pro-development community groups, who are in favour of higher-density living. They argue more construction – meeting housing demand with housing supply – is the most effective and equitable way to make housing affordable to a wider segment of society, not just those with the financial means to break into these highly-competitive and in-demand housing markets.

Originating in Toronto and New York, the YIMBYs have prominent chapters in other cities, including San Francisco’s Bay area, with the Bay Area Renter’s Federation (BARF). YIMBYs aren’t NKOTBs (new kids on the block); an established movement, the Toronto chapter is celebrating the 10th year of the YIMBY festival in December.

Will we see YIMBYs in Australia?

Australia is surely fertile ground for a home-grown YIMBY movement. A well-publicised ‘housing affordability crisis’ combined with a burgeoning population of young people in our capital cities and older populations ageing in place, means the tension between the need for more homes (higher density living) and the preservation of neighbourhood character is a familiar story across Australia.

Such tensions will ultimately fall at the feet of local planning departments to resolve.

How will these decisions be made?

Will councils respond to political pressure from vocal interest groups? Or, will planners take the strategic approach, and use a nuanced, data-driven understanding of local populations to develop housing and infrastructure that best serves the future needs of their community?

Our forecasting and consulting teams, in particular, work with local governments who have to make difficult decisions that strike the right balance. They’ve developed a successful model for making (and, importantly, advocating for) good housing policy, that uses land zoning to support a sustainable local economy while meeting the residential demands of a changing population in the most effective way.

If you’re in local government and working on housing policy, get in touch with our consulting team, and tell us what you’re working on.

If you’re living in an area that’s struggling with housing affordability or you’re concerned about the impact of development on the character and infrastructure of your neighbourhood, please share your experience in the comments.

.id is a team of population experts who combine online tools and consulting services to help local governments and organisations decide where and when to locate their facilities and services, to meet the needs of changing populations. Access our local government area information tools here.

Tags: Housing
Andrew Hedge

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