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Survey Shows NIMBYism Waning Amid Post-Pandemic Shifts


Fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, including unexpected social changes and the great migration, has shifted "not in my backyard" public sentiment over the last two years, according to a new survey finding NIMBYism is on the decline.

According to the survey, published by coUrbanize and compiled in August, 62% of the participants identified as pro-development — a striking difference from the 49% who approved in the same survey back in 2020. 

The survey found that housing development had the most support among participants, with 76% looking forward to new affordable housing being delivered for the elderly and 69% agreeing there should be an increase in workforce housing for public servants like firefighters, government employees and teachers.

Some 66% said they felt disabled individuals need more affordable product, while 64% said single-family housing for the middle class should be prioritized. When it comes to veteran housing, 63% of participants felt providing affordable housing for vets should be a critical focus. 

"We attribute this support to a wider recognition of social inequities and to the housing crisis," coUrbanize founder and CEO Karin Brandt said in a statement Wednesday.

The survey’s findings come in the wake of new legislation proposed by the Biden administration in May to help solve the housing affordability crisis sweeping the country.

According to the five-year Housing Action Plan, the administration will prioritize land use changes, local planning and housing density, and award grants from the bipartisan infrastructure bill through the Department of Transportation.

That initiative appeared to have support among survey participants, with 62% agreeing public transportation as well as more housing is key for economic success and mobility.

"When housing is not affordable in town centers where many jobs are located, workers have no choice but to move farther away. Public transportation is critical for economic mobility," Brandt said.

Enthusiasm for retail and low-income housing development was less strong, according to coUrbanize’s survey, although both appealed to at least half of respondents. About 57% of participants said retail-related development was a priority; 50% said the same of projects classified as low-income housing.

Approximately 31% felt more public housing is needed and only 20% of participants are interested in more lab facilities coming on the market. That sentiment could trace back to the heavily reported zoning debate over the New York Blood Center that turned on key zoning issues like building height.

"We celebrate the overall increase in support for development, but there is still work to be done," Brandt said, adding that part of the work ahead includes educating stakeholders who fear new developments due to systemic racism and what she called fake news.

"If you want to change outcomes for communities, engagement needs to be equitable and meaningful," she said.

The national survey published by coUrbanize, a tech firm dedicated to supporting civic participation in urban development, planning and community improvements, garnered 1,600 responses from residents of more than 500 properties on coUrbanize's platform. The organization produced the same survey in March of 2020, which resulted in 1,073 responses.

CORRECTION, SEPT. 15, 11:50 A.M. ET: The respondents to this survey were residents from projects on the company's platform. A previous version of this story misidentified who was polled in the survey. This story has been updated.