September 13, 2016

Yes to the YIMBY

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The YIMBY – Yes in My Backyard – movement embraces the sort of mixed development that gives Vancouver’s West End its character.

A positive new movement gives neighbourhood developments the nod

URBAN DEVELOPMENT

BY ANNE McMULLIN

There is a new movement growing in cities that are facing housing affordability challenges. It is called the YIMBY movement and it has begun to find traction in Vancouver.

The YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) philosophy is that new development brings opportunity to a strained market, and it is a counter response to the anti-development NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mentality.

It is a powerful thing when local residents show up to public meetings to show their support for a new development project. We have come to expect locals to be resistant to change. It makes sense; after all, they chose to live where they do because they like things the way they are. Why would they want anything to change? In a city as beautiful as Vancouver, it can be especially difficult to imagine that we have room for improvement. This is where the refreshing foresight of the YIMBY comes in.

The West End is a great example of a neighbourhood that has evolved through different eras of growth. What was originally a low-density enclave of mansions for the city’s elite has evolved over many decades into a vibrant and diverse community with a mix of housing types. Some remnants of the early days are still well preserved, but today the West End is recognized for being one of the most inclusive neighbourhoods in the country.

Yes In My Backyard proponents want to see similar success in their own neighbourhoods. They voice their support for new developments because they recognize that fresh housing and new people can strengthen their community. Sometimes they want more housing options nearby to suit their future needs, whether it be downsizing, upgrading, or starting a family. Other times they encourage developments because they want housing options for friends or family.

Many YIMBYs support development simply for housing affordability reasons. The YIMBY movement promotes building more homes as an effective means to address rising housing prices. As more people are getting priced out of the market, YIMBYs encourage development to help ease the pressures of high demand and limited supply.

The YIMBY movement is a reminder that Vancouver is not alone in its struggle to achieve more affordable housing. The YIMBY movement began in San Francisco and quickly spread to other places such as New York and London. In June 2016, the first ever YIMBY conference was held in Boulder, Colo., another city that is experiencing an affordable housing crisis.

The next time a new development is proposed in your neighbourhood, ask yourself: Are you a NIMBY or a YIMBY?

Anne McMullin is president and CEO of the Urban Development Institute. As a partner in community building, the Urban Development Institute is committed to working with communities and governments to create and achieve the vision of balanced, well-planned and sustainable communities.

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