Not In My Backyard: 8 Things (2024) You Need to Know

Also called NIMBY, the not in my backyard phenomenon is a colloquialism that signifies one’s opposition to the location of something undesirable in one’s neighborhood.

The phrase is thought to have originated in the mid-1970s.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how NIMBY is used and why you should be aware of this characterization.

1. What is not in my backyard?

As noted above, “not in my backyard” is a characterization of opposition by residents to proposed developments in their local areas.

Using this saying, they are demonstrating their support for strict land use regulations.

It indicates that they are not only opposing the development nearby but that they would not tolerate or support it if it were built farther away.

2. What is the history of not in my backyard?

The word NIMBY appeared in a June 1980 newspaper article in Virginia.

Here is the quote, “Some call it the NIMBY Syndrome. That’s NIMBY, as in ‘Not-in-my-back-yard.”

The concept behind the term — locally organized resistance to unwanted land uses — is likely to have originated earlier (perhaps in the 1950s).

3. What are people who support “not in my backyard” called?

Residents who support this position are often referred to as NIMBYs and their viewpoint is called NIMBYism.

4. What are examples of projects that are likely to be opposed by NIMBYs?

Here is a list of some of the projects that may be opposed by NIMBYs:

bulletHousing development

bulletPedestrian infrastructure

bulletSkyscrapers

bulletHomeless shelters

bulletOil wells

bulletChemical plants

bulletOil and chemical pipelines

bulletIndustrial parks

bulletMilitary bases

bulletSewage treatment systems

bulletFracking

bulletWind turbines

bulletDesalination plants

bulletLandfill sites

bulletIncinerators

bulletPower plants

bulletQuarriers

bulletPrisons

bulletPubs

bulletAdult entertainment clubs

bulletConcert venues

bulletFirearms dealers

bulletMobile phone masts

bulletElectricity pylons

bulletAbortion clinics

bulletChildren’s homes

bulletNursing homes

bulletYouth hostels

bulletSports stadiums

bulletShopping malls

bulletRetail parks

bulletDiscount stores

bulletPublic schools

bulletRailways

bulletHospitals

bulletHighway expansion

bulletAirports

bulletSeaports

bulletGrocery stores

bulletNuclear waste repositories

bulletStorage of weapons of mass destruction

bulletCannabis dispensaries

bulletRecreational cannabis shops

bulletMethadone clinics

bulletAccommodations for people applying for asylum, refugees, or displaced persons

5. What is the rationale for the “not in my backyard” campaign?

Above there is a long list of all the additions to a neighborhood that NIMBYs may resist.

If you don’t immediately align with this mindset, your initial question may be…why?

What is the rationale for why they’d object to this development?

Here are some of the reasons.

bulletIncreased traffic

Ex: Infrastructure development for new roads, motorway service areas, light rail, metro lines, airports, power plants, retail developments, sales of public assets, electrical transmission lines, wastewater treatment plants, landfills, sewage outfalls, and prions.

bulletHarm to locally owned businesses

Ex: Big box store installation can bring harmful competition to locally owned stores

bulletLoss of residential property value

bulletBusinesses offering goods or services that are immoral

Ex: Adult video, liquor stores, medical cannabis dispensaries

bulletEnvironmental pollution of land, air, and water

Ex: Power plants, factories, chemical facilities, crematoriums, and sewage treatment facilities can all have environmental impacts on the neighborhoods they’re in

bulletNoise and light pollution

Ex: Projects like airports or roads can be noisy or cause light pollution as they operate during the night

bulletLoss of the community’s small-town feel

New houses can sometimes change the community’s character

bulletA strain of public resources

Ex: Any increase to the local area’s population (i.e., children’s homes or accommodations for refugees) can place a strain on a local area’s resources to serve their existing population

bulletIncreases in crime

Ex: This is normally said in reference to any projects that are perceived as attracting or employing low-skilled workers or racial minorities as well as projects that cater to people who are thought to often commit crimes (i.e., mentally ill, poor, drug addicts, etc.)

bulletRisk of an environmental disaster

Ex: Drilling operations, dams, or nuclear power plants can all increase the risk of a disaster

bulletHistoric areas

6. What are the variations of NIMBY?

Here are some common alternatives and variations to NIMBY (not in my backyard).

bulletNIMN – not in my neighborhood – refers to legislative actions or private agreements made with the sole purpose of maintaining racial identity within a particular neighborhood or residential area by forcefully keeping members of other races from moving into the area

bulletNAMBI – not against my business or industry – used as a label for any business concern that expresses umbrage with actions or policies that threaten that business; serves as a criticism of the kind of outrage that business expresses when disingenuously portraying their protest to be for the benefit of all other businesses

bulletBANANA – building absolutely nothing anywhere near anything (or anyone) – used most often to criticize the ongoing opposition of certain advocacy groups to land development; used most often in the United Kingdom

bulletCAVE – citizens against virtually everything – used most often in the United States

bulletPIBBY – places in blacks’ backyard – indicates that the people with perceived social, racial, and economic privileges object to development in their own backyards and, if the objectionable item must be built, then it should be built so that its perceived harm disproportionally affects poor, socially disadvantaged people

bulletSOBBY – some other bugger’s backyard – refers to the state of mind which agrees that a particular project may be desirable and perhaps necessary, but only if it is placed elsewhere than someone’s neighborhood or district

bulletReverse NIMBY – the concept that “If it happens in my backyard, it matters more because, well, it’s my backyard” – this commonly happens in the U.S. with politicians who use their sway following a major catastrophic event to get recovery funds from the federal government

bulletNIMTOO – not in my term of office – this is the phenomenon of elected officials postponing unpopular projects, especially during times of elections or re-elections

7. What’s the problem with the NIMBY ideology?

Homeowners accused of NIMBYism usually aim to protect the value of their properties.

While a parcel of land in a community gives you buy in to that community, you cannot expand your claim too far.

Nuisance laws have attempted to limit the harm that one property owner can have to another for decades.

But there is a time when we must ask ourselves, how far does it go?

Many won’t see the issue with this.

They’ll say, “Oh well, if someone is looking out for schools and streets in ways that are important to American communities, then what is wrong with that?”

Yet, we must ask ourselves what isn’t happening because people don’t want it in their neighborhood.

Are there affordable senior housing projects, homes affordable to teachers or firefighters, airports, railways, homeless shelters, children’s homes, and so many other beneficial institutions that are not being built?

Is there room for a new business that can help stimulate the local economy?

Or has someone always put a stop to it because it was in their backyard?

For many reasons, communities always need to be changing.

No single individual can have a veto over that change.

American citizens have typically seen a lot of privilege associated with homeownership.

Around the 1970s, Americans began to broadly think of homeownership as a way to create wealth.

Housing became a financial asset, and thus homeowners began to take more seriously anything they feared would harm their homes.

This is where nuisance laws came into play and why not in my backyard exists.

As this article put it, “We ask home equity to do so much for us in terms of providing retirement, providing a bridge during drought years, allowing us to have collateral for other kinds of loans then you add schools and crime into the mix. To the extent that people can control anything, they try to control for that.”

Seen in this light, NIMBYism makes some sense.

The problem is when homeowners have disproportionate say in what can be built in the rest of community – and when beneficial projects are blocked due to the perception that they could lower property values.

8. What techniques can be used to combat not in my backyard?

In general, real estate developers are some of the most unpopular individuals with the American public.

They’re right up there with corporate executives.

However, recently more collaborative relationships have started to form in cities across the country.

Residents that may have once protested new construction in the name of “not in my backyard” are welcoming developers and pushing governments to allow more and more housing to be built.

Why are people suddenly onboard with more development?

For one, rent prices.

With additional housing available, people believe that the cost of rent in cities like Boston, San Francisco, and Portland won’t rise so quickly.

This will allow people from a variety of economic backgrounds to live and work in the city.

This progressivist movement is called YIMBY – yes in my backyard.

It contrasts with NIMBY.

The group says yes to opportunity and pushes back against concerns from other community members about noise, height, and traffic.

YIMBY groups are appealing to people’s sense of equity and fairness.

Economic mobility is stunted throughout much of the country.

When there isn’t any affordable housing, people can’t afford to live in high-opportunity cities like New York and San Francisco.

By building more units, you take pressure off housing prices and open up the cities’ economies to more people.

Housing is a social justice issue — plain and simple.

Although people may not like the look of a higher-density building, they do understand that people need a place to live.

Another tactic that’s being used is the idea of wealth distribution.

Building more housing and public amenities is a way to make a city more equitable.

When you build affordable housing in the city, it allows everyone to share it more equitably.

Read more about the conversion of people From ‘Not in My Backyard’ to ‘Yes in My Backyard.’

Final Thoughts

The “not in my backyard” characterization is used to support strict land use regulations.

People are referred to as NIMBY when they don’t want certain development in their neighborhood.

However, in most cases, these infrastructures must exist somewhere, and NIMBYism can be problematic when it comes to building a city that accommodates all.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

Erika

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