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NIMBY stands for "Not in my backyard." It refers to opposition to locating something considered undesirable in one's neighborhood or area.

The Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "NIMBY": 

“A person who objects to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or hazardous in their own neighborhood, especially while raising no such objections to similar developments elsewhere.”

The term YIMBY, for Yes In My Backyard, was coined as a play on NIMBY. 

'NIMBY' was coined as, and generally remains, a critical and pejorative term, which people hardly ever use to self-identify. So if used as a term for a person (as opposed to say a dynamic or syndrome), it may be viewed as inherently polarizing. 
     A relatively rare case of someone using NIMBY to self-identify is Jane Anne Morris, Not In My Back Yard: The Handbook (1994), pictured at right. However, the sense in which she uses the term is more like, NIABY, "Not In Anyone's Backyard," i.e. opposition to land-uses which it is argued should not happen at all, such as radioactive waste disposal. (See: NIMBY and YIMBY related terms). 

Other definitions

Hankinson [2018]

Hankinson [2018] offers this definition and statement of problem: 

‘Not In My Back Yard’ or ‘NIMBY’ opposition (Dear, 1992; Schively, 2007) creates a collective action problem for the housing supply. Despite supporting supply citywide, residents individually have an incentive to ‘defect’ and block new housing proposed for their own neighborhood. If the permitting process allows individual residents to defect from a group interest of more supply, then NIMBYism will not only lead to less new housing overall, but to a level of supply below majoritarian preferences. This ability of NIMBYism to undermine collective action extends beyond housing to an array of land uses, from clean energy facilities (Stokes, 2016) and landfills (Lake, 1996) to homeless shelters and social service centers (Dear, 1992). So long as the costs are spatially concentrated, even broadly supported land uses will face NIMBY opposition.

Dear [1992]

from one of the earliest discussions of NIMBY phenomenon: Michael Dear [1992] “Understanding and Overcoming the NIMBY Syndrome.” Journal of the American Planning Association 58 (3): 288–300.

"In plain language, NIMBYis the motivation of residents who want to protect their turf. More formally, NIMBY refers to the protectionist attitudes of and oppositional tactics adopted by community groups facing an unwelcome development in theirneighborhood. Such controversial developments encom-pass a wide range of land-use proposals, including many human service facilities, landfill sites, hazardous wastefacilities, low-income housing, nuclear facilities, and air-ports. Residents usually concede that these “noxious” facilities are necessary, but not near their homes, hence the term “not in my back yard.”

"Of course, not all oppositionis counterproductive: Neighborhood complaints can result in valuable improvements to proposed programs;and vocal, client-led opposition may cause positive adjustments to the program plans of human service providers. This essay, however, focuses on the more self-interested, turf-protectionist behavior of facility opponents in an attempt to provide a perspective on the NIMBY phenomenon and to reduce an apparently chaotic concept to manageable proportions in ways that will beuseful for planners, advocates, and service providers. Thearticle addresses three important themes: the nature of community opposition, factors determining community attitudes, and a guide to alternative strategies for community relations."


Pendall [1999]

When reduced to its most literal interpretation of “not in my backyard,” the term NIMBY connotes a selfish desire to abdicate responsibility for important community facilities. Where housing is concerned, NIMBY is a label most commonly applied to people who oppose subsidized dwellings, group homes, and shelters for the homeless. But in recent years, homebuilders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Secretary Kemp have painted all opposition to housing with this broad NIMBY brush (Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing 1991). This interpretation of opposition to housing extends to the academic literature as well (Frieden 1979). Yet opponents cite myriad reasons for changing or stopping new housing projects. In this article, I presume that we can learn much more about the planning and development process by taking these concerns at face value...

"I do not presume to establish generalized rules about protests against housing. In fact, I have the opposite intent: to counter attempts to sup- press protest by labeling it with a general, pejorative term and to encourage the search for seeds of truth within protest."

"Fiscal impact studies tend to show that most housing types generate less property tax reve- nue than they demand in local services (Livingston and Blayney 1971; Hughes 1974; Commonwealth Research Group, Inc. 1995)."

"Residential developments provoke controversy for many different reasons, especially in a setting that has a highly educated, politically active, and environmentally concerned citizenry such as the San Francisco Bay Area....Antigrowth and NIMBY protests were both more com- mon in jurisdictions with lower median incomes."



in San Francisco Bay Area

This concept has particular relevance in tight housing markets, which would benefit from the creation of new affordable housing. In some of these housing markets, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, people holding concerns about new development activists have successfully blocked the new housing construction needed to meet demand.

Arguments against new construction from some of these advocates include the idea that new development will negatively alter the character or "soul" of the area and that it will drive displacement and gentrification. Such activists argue that in housing markets with rising prices, there are incentives for landlords to evict low-income tenants in order to demolish and build larger luxury housing or to sell at a high profit to developers. 

"The citywide vote [referring to San Francisco] turned into a referendum on gentrification; city politicians' positions on 8 Washington became a proxy for their vision of what San Francisco should be. The city's tenant-rights groups, of which there is no shortage, are surprisingly sceptical of plans to add to the city's housing supply. Some contend that so long as there is "infinite" demand for housing in San Francisco, constructing apartments will somehow raise prices for everyone else. Others hate the sight of luxury flats going up when low-income folks are being priced out of the city. But those apartments can be flogged to newcomers who might otherwise be attracted to townhouses in the Mission." - The scapegoat capital of America.The Economist. [reference below]

In some markets, such as San Francisco, the call from NIMBY advocates has been to socialize or otherwise heavily regulate housing and to specifically build affordable housing for low-income residents versus building market rent housing units. 

NIMBYists also argue that the market-as-a-driver leaves communities vulnerable to the whims of developers, who going where the profit is, might choose to (re)zone and develop property for non-residential uses, if that is what is most lucrative and ignore the need for housing.

Outside of housing development, other types of projects targeted for opposition by NIMBY activists include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, homeless shelters and public transportation installations.

Some slogans used to oppose development include: "Gentrification is colonization," "No demolition. No displacement," and "Stop evictions." 

Concerns of those opposed to development, who can be inaccurately framed as NIMBY fears ignore the fact that many YIMBY activists are pushing for linkage payments from developers that would go to funds to create affordable housing, inclusionary zoning to require the building of low and mid-income affordable housing and rezoning that would allow for new forms of housing built onto or around existing residential structures. However often these linkage payments or "impact fees" may be insufficient for infrastructure to keep pace with the added burden of new development, or overlook an existing wide gap between provision of acceptable infrastructure for existing residential units, even before new units are added. On the San Francisco peninsular these situations have been exacerbated with the addition of commercial office space without commensurate addition of housing or infrastructure as cities welcome high revenue generating commercial space over residential which typically has a net negative impact on city cashflows. 

In Portland, Oregon, for example, the Residential Infill Project, a committee of residents, builders, city planners and low-income housing experts is researching changes to regulations on height and scale requirements for new homes, increased density as well as an easement to limits on demolitions. Portlanders are also exploring duplex and triplex co-housing, accessory dwelling units, building around natural features like trees and converting large single household dwellings into apartments. While many YIMBY activists do call for increased density by building up and increasing floor area ratios, these low-rise strategies embraced by YIMBY advocates as part of the solution to the housing crunch run counter to NIMBY fears and rhetoric about the development of new high-rise condo buildings.

Other YIMBY strategies that speak to stated opponent concerns about affordable housing focus on lowering the cost to build affordable units by building on disused or underutilized municipal land (e.g. vacant lots and parking lots), lowering parking requirements for new developments and streamlining interior installations in units slated for low-income residents. Coupled with inclusionary zoning, linkage payments and increased density housing near public transportation hubs, this is the approach being examined in Cambridge, Massachusetts (seeA Better Cambridge). In response, those raising concerns about new housing developments raise the concern of whether linkage payments and inclusionary zoning programs result in the creation of enough units (particularly two and three bedroom units for families versus smaller units geared towards singletons and childless couples) that rent for rates low enough to be affordable for those on low incomes. They also hold concerns that when developments are built with insuffucient parking that parking overflow can occur, resulting in residents circling to find a spot which slows traffic and adds to emissions. Actual reduction in car usage resulting from Transit Oriented Development may be minimal, especially in suburban locations with plentiful free parking or that are distant (e.g. >30 minutes) from a major employment center such as San Francisco.


Criticisms of term 

"The term NIMBY over-simplifies people with what may be valid objections to development, while there are certainly invalid reasons against development. It can be interpreted to mean opponents are against all development, or for zero growth - when they may be pro development when that development respects important considerations such as environment, cultural history, health, city financial solvency, water, city services such as police or fire, or traffic concerns. Another argument may be adding buildings that are out of scale with a city - e.g. imposing 6 - 10 story mid-rise buildings in a 1- 3 story neighborhood. As an over-simplistic label NIMBY, or "NIMBY advocates," should be carefully and selectively used as it can antagonize and polarize dialog, unless that is the intended effect.

"For constructive conversations YIMBYs should seek to avoid this polarizing term. It is inaccurate and depicts a stereotype - typically that of those with invalid, trivial or inconsistent reasons for opposing development."
 - Richard Hall.  @rihallix / 


See also




See also: