The Greater Good – The Housing Crisis and NIMBYism

We all know there is a housing crisis in Canada. It used to be concentrated in major metropolises like Toronto and Vancouver, but now it has spread like wildfire to other cities and towns. The one constant throughout is a shortage of supply driving up prices. We simply aren’t building enough to meet the burgeoning new household formation.

Most new housing is either “greenfield” or “infill.” Greenfield consumes more resources to create and it often depletes valuable agricultural lands. Infill, on the other hand, uses existing infrastructure such as roads, sewers, water supply, schools, parks, transit and so on. Infill new construction is usually deliverable more quickly, because of the aforementioned existing infrastructure. 

Here in Ontario, infill development is encouraged in provincial, regional and municipal legislation.

The reality is, however, that infill is fraught with its own unique obstacle: NIMBYism. Not as many people object to the destruction of an agricultural farm on the fringes of a community as they object to something nearby (NIMBY: not in my back yard). We all understand that.

What I did not know is that the motivations for NIMBY objection go beyond the actual infill proposal itself – they’re also rooted in jealousy and hate. The tighter the land supply, and the more onerous the approval process, the more NIMBYs figure the developers who prosper and who can navigate the complex system are most likely to be the richest and most aggressive.

“The result could be a self-fulfilling process that fulfills people’s worst expectations: communities suspicious of development clamp down on it, partly because they believe developers are rich and confrontational, and by clamping down they increase the probability that developers will be rich and confrontational.” 

This quote is from an article published on Bloomberg.com.

Most of us live in housing that was created by a profit-motivated developer, just as most of the other consumables in our lives were thus created. The disdain for developers is entrenched in our psyche – too bad we’re all paying for it and being hurt by it!

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