NIMBY = Who Gets Heard

Man holding microphone speaking at the back of a room filled with people.
A public meeting. Packed hall. One speaker.

NIMBY: Not in My Back Yard. Part of an ongoing collection of articles exploring some of the many ways that a worldwide affordable housing crisis is opposed.

The Maytree Foundation1 has come up with an entirely new take on NIMBY.

NIMBY’s are frequently portrayed as the people who oppose neighbourhood changes such as new deeply affordable housing or an emergency shelter in their neighbourhood.

Indeed, they undoubtedly reflect an understandable caution by ALL the neighbours to the uncertainties of change. But their passion almost always defaults to NOT in my back yard, rather than possibly THIS in my back yard, or even THAT in my back yard.

In fact, it’s possible that a majority of neighbours are willing to consider change. But they expect to be shouted down by their assertive neighbours. They may even be cut off by the person who is chairing the meeting if that person is a staunch defender of NO change at all.

Elizabeth McIsaac and Alan Broadbent, the authors of the article linked below, take the position that NIMBY is about who gets heard and who does not.

McIsaac and Broadbent state that using public meetings to gauge public sentiment permits the dominance of what may be a few loud voices. Public meetings allow politicians a convenient answer, however poorly it may reflect the desires of residents who are prepared to entertain change, perhaps by adding deeply affordable housing or an emergency shelter, or multi-tenant housing.

The authors also discuss an alternative process that a City Councillor in Toronto developed to listen to all of his constituents. McIsaac and Broadbent relate that the Councillor used the process to inform his votes on issues at City Council.

Read more at the Maytree Foundation: The problem with NIMBY – and it might not be what you think


  1. The Maytree Foundation was founded in 1982, for the purpose of ending poverty in Canada. It is based in Toronto.