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How to turn NIMBYs into YIMBYs

by Hira Younas

Home ownership in England has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years and more and more people are being forced to rent as buying a home becomes increasingly unaffordable. Demand for houses far exceeds supply, a major factor behind price hikes and long-term affordability problems. The housing crisis is not just limited to London but is also beginning to affect other areas including Manchester. So, what is the solution? The answer is simple – build more new homes. However, many new developments are often opposed as the process is seen as too ‘top-down.’ Many people fall into the ‘NIMBY’ (Not In My Backyard) camp because they see new housing developments as having too many costs and not enough benefits.

Communities need to see some positive results from new developments in their vicinities. New homes often bring about problems of restricted parking, fewer places in schools and additional services which means the locals could pay more in council tax. Grant Shapps, a Conservative MP, has suggested that his party would match the council tax revenue received on all new homes for a period of six years. Furthermore, the government and house builders need to educate the masses more about the economic benefits of Yimbiyism (Yes In My Backyard). New builds create new jobs, reduce rents and would let more young people own their own homes.

For local residents, there are not only financial costs but also social costs associated with new builds. One of the best ways in which developers can find out the concerns of the local community is through community engagement. This dialogue not only needs to be there during the planning and building stage but should also continue after the homes have been developed so that the locals can convey their concerns after completion. Opinion polls show that 69 per cent of people are more concerned about the quality of homes in their area rather than the quantity. More people prefer Victorian style buildings and 73 per cent would support new developments if they were well-designed and matched the area.

Builders, therefore, need to understand that local communities should have a say in the quality of homes being produced in their area. Damage to natural environments, parks and open spaces is also a real concern. House builders need to be able to create an atmosphere of cooperation so that the local people don’t lose out on their green spaces and also devise ways in which they can give back to the community. Builders can designate a certain percentage of their land to communal areas such as gardens, walkways and cycle paths. Another way to reduce the environmental concerns of the community is by bringing ecologists on board during the planning period. They can assess how the homes can be built with minimal impact to the natural environment and wildlife.

The housing crisis is real and here to stay for a while. Failure to plan properly will only result in setbacks. A more ‘bottom-up’ approach to house building is, therefore, crucial. House builders should realise that local residents need to be taken on board before major building decisions can be made otherwise their projects could suffer from severe delays due to local opposition. Also, the more positive outcomes of new developments, such as long-term economic growth, need to be highlighted in the media so that more people can jump onto the YIMBY bandwagon. Inability to meet with rising demands will only result in higher prices, locking out the future generation from home ownership and thereby, financial independence.

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