Monday, November 07, 2011


Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) is a term coined thirty or so years ago to refer (negatively) to residents’ opposition to development in their neighbourhood.

Usually it’s about housing – like stopping a group home or rallying neighbours concerned about apartment building heights.

There can be legitimate concerns about development, redevelopment or infill projects.
However, too often NIMBY comes out of narrow minded attitudes and uninformed opinions.

Over the years I’ve been developing a list of my favourite examples of NIMBYism.

Like the time when politicians in a neighbouring suburban community forced non-profit housing residents to install uniform and identical window blinds.

Or on another occasion when assertions from residents that the addition of a new city bus route would bring violent crime to the neighbourhood led to the route's cancellation.

Probably my most memorable NIMBY moment, though, occurred when a resident suggested that the addition of a painted centre line to a local street (recommended for safety reasons) would bring down property values.

It is good, then, to see that the lesser known movement YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) is coming to the fore in Vancouver.

The driving force for YIMBY in this city is the Pivot Legal Society. Pivot uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion. To deal with NIMBY they have put together a YIMBY toolkit.

According to a news release this kit “is intended for people who understand the value of addressing homelessness, addictions, and mental illness in a proactive and positive way...” The toolkit will help people “who want to say “Yes in my backyard!” to projects that help people get off the streets.”

The 44 page guide explains the right to housing, offers useful myth busting information and includes some exercises as well. The Cringe Test, for example, challenges you to ask some basic questions in order to tell the difference between discrimination and a legitimate objection to supportive housing.

“If it sounds wrong when you say the same thing about a racial, ethnic or religious minority, then you know you’ve heard a discriminatory statement.” And that kind of statement goes against basic human rights.

The kit also details the human rights and legal framework supporting the YIMBY position, case studies such as the UBC Hospice and success stories like the Rain City Housing and Support Society’s development in Vancouver.

This excellent community building resource can be downloaded at

(This article was originally published in North End Breezes - (