Even Renters Say NIMBY, Study Shows

February 21, 2017

Usually it’s homeowners who are associated with blocking new lower income construction, due to fears about the effect on property values and neighborhood aesthetics. But a new study shows that renters in high-cost cities may hold a NIMBY—not-in-my-back-yard—mentality too, concerning proposed higher-cost developments because it fuels anxiety that they themselves could be become priced out of the neighborhood.

Renters in high-rent cities are showing NIMBYism toward market-rate housing at a level that matches homeowners, finds new research by Michael Hankinson at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Hankinson examined attitudes toward new development in a new survey with more than 3,000 respondents, and then juxtaposed the data with a poll to more than 1,600 San Francisco residents.

He found impressions changed due to the proximity and type of housing proposed. For example, affordable housing proposed within a 2-minute walking distance was more unpopular than market-rate development two miles away. Notably, in high-rent cities renters objected to market-rate development at the same rate that homeowners did. Renters objected even though they showed strong support for increasing the city’s housing supply.

“The perceived threat from new neighborhood development was also linked to anxiety about rising housing prices and rent burdening”—paying large shares of income on rent)—The Atlantic’s CityLab reports on the study. “The prospect of displacement, it appears, is behind this tragedy of the commons.”

Source: “San Francisco Is So Expensive Even Renters Can Be NIMBYs,” The Atlantic CityLab (Feb. 9, 2017) and “When Do Renters Behave Like Homeowners? High Rent, Price Anxiety, and NIMBYism,” Joint Center for Housing Studies (February 2017)