Nimby Assessment

Responding to NIMBY-Related Impediments

Sometimes NIMBY attitudes impede the development of supportive housing, despite an organization's best efforts to diffuse community opposition. Appropriate responses depend on the nature of the impediment and on an organization's tolerance for risk, but common strategies include:

  • Obtaining "site control" over properties to be used for supportive housing through a binding purchase contract or option agreement, a long-term lease, or outright ownership.

    Example: After agreeing to sell a building to a local nonprofit for the development of supportive housing, an owner began to feel pressure from neighbors to back out of the sale. However, because the nonprofit obtained site control through an option agreement, the owner had no choice but to honor his commitment to sell the property. See the site control case study for more information on this topic.

  • Acting preemptively to circumnavigate policy-related barriers to projects.

    Example: Knowing that the future site of a supportive housing development was on a registry of historic sites, the nonprofit developer obtained a waiver from the relevant local government agency regarding the additional inspections and approvals that sometimes apply to historic sites. Had the nonprofit not obtained the waiver, project opponents may have used policies pertaining to historic sites to challenge the development. See the urban policy and regulatory issues case study for more information on this topic.

  • Providing opportunities for dialogue between community members and prospective residents of the supportive housing facility to dispel community member's prejudices and fears.

    Example: A nonprofit developer of supportive housing held "tea and cookies" sessions with small numbers of neighbors and prospective supportive housing residents, to allay neighbors' concerns and win their trust. See the Fair Housing Toolkit for more information.

  • Using legal challenges based on legislation such as the Fair Housing Act to protect the prospective residents from discrimination.

    Example: A nonprofit developer used fair housing law to challenge the local government's application of zoning requirements, arguing that it prevents the provision of sufficient housing for persons with dual diagnoses of mental health and substance abuse problems. Fair housing law requires states and localities to waive, amend, or modify their laws and other rules, upon request, to afford equal opportunity in housing to persons with disabilities. See the Fair Housing Toolkit for more information.

The action an organization decides to take will depend on its "risk tolerance," its willingness to respond to NIMBY-related impediments to the development of supportive housing in ways that involve risk of adverse effects on the organization and projects. Lower-risk responses to NIMBYism include engaging neighbors in dialogue about the development or researching whether project plans comply with codes. Higher-risk actions might include legal challenges and involve legal costs or publicity that an organization prefers to avoid.

The case studies found in this training provide more detail on responding appropriately to NIMBY-related impediments to the development of supportive housing.