Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)

The term NIMBY is used as a pejorative for residents who oppose new development. It was coined by realtors and developers eager to advance projects that will be detrimental to existing residents. These projects almost always seek rezoning or a planning exception to allow construction of homes on smaller lots (higher density) than is permitted by the current zoning. The result of such development is usually a dramatic increase in traffic, increased flood risk, increased wildfire evacuation hazard, and overburdened schools. The effect is to degrade the quality of life for the neighbors. Their opposition to these developments is entirely logical.

The NIMBY term implies that the residents are hypocrites. The developers argue that the current residents bought new houses in this area and that it is hypocritical to deny the development of more homes to newcomers. It reflects the disdain that the developers and realtors feel toward the residents. It is partly a smoke-screen to mask the point that the residents bought homes on 1/3-acre lots while the developer is seeking to build the new homes on 1/8-acre lots changing the character of the neighborhood and putting a strain on the infrastructure and the schools. By and large, residents accept new development that is compliant with the zoning in place at the time they bought their homes.

Residents should be enraged when being referred to as NIMBY’s. It is a slur not so different from a racial slur. It puts the residents on the defensive in any discussion of the issues with new development. Rather than debating the problem issues with a new development, residents with valid arguments end up defending themselves from being identified by the slur. This only favors the unethical developers. It’s no more than name-calling by the developers and realtors. The best response may be to use a comparable pejorative against theses individuals. “If I’m a NIMBY, that makes you a liar:” might be a suitable response.