Sunday, November 4, 2007

NIMBY Profile Tough To Pigeonhole

by Broderick Perkins
© 2007 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom – Call it a subculture, grassroots movement or a cross-section of the American politic, the myopic NIMBY movement is a force to be reckoned with.

Not Republican nor Democrat, not much more liberal than moderate or conservative, and with no single staunch geographic base, the NIMBY (the acronym for the controversial "not-in-my-backyard" movement) crowd is comprised of people from all walks of life who have a common goal -- to send virtually all developers packing.

Apparently, when all is said and done, the sentiment is largely bottom-line oriented.

Hingham, MA-based Saint Consulting Group's annual Saint Index this year says socio-economic indicators -- education and income -- are more accurate indicators developers may want to keep an eye out for before visiting the local planning czar.

NIMBYs have been criticized as an I've-got-mine gang of elites, but the 2007 Saint Index found that 78 percent of Americans want to zero out all new development in their hometown. That's up from 73 percent last year. What's more, one in four say they actually took part in some action against a project.

Also, the just-say-'no' attitude toward development has become so entrenched, it's earned them two other acronyms, according to Saint -- BANANAs ("build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone") and CAVE people ("citizens against virtually everything").

What prompts people to hoist picket signs against developers?

Single-family housing and other developments that address basic needs have the best shot at escaping torch-burning ire.

But not all housing escapes unscathed. While 83 percent of people say they support single-family homes in their community, 53 percent of adults who have actively opposed a real estate development project, opposed a single- or multi-family residential project.

Saint said the developments Americans oppose, and the percentage of Americans that opposes each includes:

• Single-family homes, 14 percent.
• Supermarkets, 29 percent.
• Hospitals, 32 percent.
• Biotech research, 41 percent.
• Offices, 43 percent.
• Apartments/Condos, 44 percent.
• Home improvement centers, 50 percent.
• Department stores, 52 percent
• Power plant, 57 percent
• Large shopping center/mall, 58 percent.
• Wal-Mart, 61 percent.
• Quarry, 64 percent.
• Landfill, 76 percent
• Casino, 76 percent

Asked why the opposition to development, NIMBYs said they want to protect community character (31 percent), protect the environment (22 percent), and ward off more traffic (21 percent). Just 10 percent cited protecting their own real estate values.

The last statistic is probably misleading.

A series of Urban Land Institute's (ULI) myth-busting studies indicate NIMBYs may be more property-value-driven than indicated in what ULI considers one of the misguided reasons for blocking development.

Saint, appears to concede its own findings about property values belie the facts.

"By probing to uncover the reasons for opposition through differently phrased questions over the years and examining the response, we've come to the conclusion that the real reason Americans oppose development is self-interest," said Patrick Fox, president of The Saint Consulting Group.

"They are protecting their own real estate values," he insists.

NIMBYs as a group are difficult to classify by political leaning or geographic location, though they are more liberal-leaning than moderate or conservative and the West, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are the most challenging environments for developers, while the South and Midwest are more welcoming.

However, the most active NIMBYs are generally older, aged 56-65, home owners rather than renters, college educated or post-graduate educated, suburbanites rather than urbanites and typically have household annual incomes of more than $100,000.

Apparently, the haves, those who earn higher incomes, have the time the have-nots do not.

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© 2007 DeadlineNews.Com

Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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