How To: Turning a NIMBY into a YIMBY

(Spoiler alert: Don’t)

One of the biggest barriers to housing development in many NH communities is NIMBYs, CAVEs, and BANANAs. 

If you’ve ever been to a local board meeting in your town or city, you are probably on a first name basis with your community’s NIMBY(s). A NIMBY, generally speaking, is “a person who objects to the siting of something perceived as unpleasant or potentially dangerous in their own neighborhood, such as a landfill or hazardous waste facility.” Or, housing, apparently. 

Last year, a study by the Boston University Initiative on Cities found that people who oppose multi-family housing development tend to speak at public hearings more than those who support it. In many NH communities, NIMBYs have power not because they represent the majority, but because they are present. 

It is unlikely that you’ll be able to persuade a NIMBY to become a YIMBY, but you can outnumber them. NIMBYs are good at what they do: loudly and consistently engaging their local leaders. If you want to see more affordable housing being developed in your community, get involved. There is strength in numbers and, in defense of the volunteers who sit on volunteer boards and committees, they need permission from the people they represent to say no to the NIMBYs. It only takes a few YIMBYs to give the board members what they need: a yes in the room. 

Start right now by asking yourself two questions: What am I passionate about? What am I good at?

What am I passionate about?

Maybe you’re passionate about housing, like I am or maybe it is the environment, or bicyclist and pedestrian safety, or public art – whatever it is, find the issues closest to your heart.

What am I good at?

Once you know what your issue is, figure out how you can help. There are endless ways you can make a difference, and speaking at a public hearing isn’t your only option (although, it is an important one). Find an organization that works on your issue and volunteer with them or join the Board of Directors or a committee, write a letter to the editor… 

If you really want to see change and you have the capacity to do it, run for office. If you’ve been following the “Path to Politics” posts on this space, you may have noticed a theme: young people are running for local and state office and they think you should, too. If you really want to make a change, do it from the inside. 

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