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Housing in my Backyard. A Municipal Guide for Responding to NIMBY. Affordability and Choice Today www.actprogram.com. Overview of presentation. Why a guide for municipal officials?. What is NIMBY. Common Concerns…and How to Respond. Strategies to Gain Acceptance….

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Housing in my backyard

Housing in my Backyard

A Municipal Guide for Responding to NIMBY

Affordability and

Choice Today


Overview of presentation
Overview of presentation

Why a guide for municipal officials?

What is NIMBY

Common Concerns…and How to Respond

Strategies to Gain Acceptance…

Why a guide for municipal officials
Why a Guide for Municipal Officials?

  • NIMBY – one of the top regulatory barriers to affordable housing (CMHC survey)

  • Focus on strategies and tools:

  • To gain community acceptance for sound housing developments NOT on the negative aspects of NIMBY

  • Suited to intensification, non-profit, lower-end-of-market, and supportive housing

  • Adaptable to a range of communities and neighbourhoods

  • To help municipalities support good housing even if opposition persists


NIMBY, defined:

“The protectionist attitudes and


oppositional tactics used

by community groups facing an

unwelcome development

in their neighbourhood.”

CMHC, 2006

Nimby act cases

Charlottetown, PEI: King’s Square

Management strategy for NIMBY opposition to homeless shelter, based on study of attitudes

District of North Vancouver

Acceptance of secondary suites in single family zones, based on demographic research

Toronto NUC-TUCT Non-Profit Housing

Residents’ concerns addressed through innovative parking plan

Peel Region Housing Opportunity Centre

Education package on affordable housing, addressing residents’ perceptions, attitudes and worries

Strategies five main themes
Strategies: Five Main Themes

  • Legislative Frameworks

  • Federal, provincial and

  • municipal laws apply

  • Examples: Building Codes,

  • Planning Acts, Human Rights

  • Monitoring & Implementation

  • Ensure “delivery” as promised

  • Monitor post-occupancy: the “lived-in” neighbourhood

  • Planning Tools

  • Comprehensive plans, zoning, site plans etc.


  • Educational Tools

  • Education is a two-way street

  • Facts are handy

  • Community

  • Engagement/Communication

  • Inform, listen, broaden the tent

Common concerns and how to respond
Common Concerns… and How to Respond

Our property values will go down

Increasing density will cause too much traffic

Increasing density will strain public services and infrastructure

The new residents won’t “fit in”

Affordable housing (or higher density housing) spoils the character of our neighbourhood

Affordable or higher density housing means more crime in the neighbourhood

Our neighbourhood already has its “fair share” of affordable housing

Common concerns and how to respond1
Common concerns…and how to respond

“People should not have to ask permission from anyone, including prospective neighbours, before moving in just because of stereotypes…”

Report of the Ontario Human Rights Commission

Apply the law legislative frameworks
Apply the Law: Legislative Frameworks

  • Provincial/Federal/International Human Rights legislation

    • International convention bound by principle of “non-discrimination”

  • Provincial Planning Acts do not support “people zoning”

  • Why do discriminatory practices still exist?

Good practices legislative frameworks
Good Practices: Legislative Frameworks

  • As a municipal official or politician, you can:

  • Stress legal basis for allowing (unpopular) housing, noting zoning and

  • Building Codes safeguard quality and good planning

  • Where appropriate, cite provincial legislation requiring smart

  • growth/higher density options

  • Remind everyone that funding for non-profit housing limits number of

  • economically feasible locations

  • Be firm about complying with human rights legislation that prohibits

  • discrimination

  • Insist on respectful comments at public meetings -- zero tolerance for

  • discriminatory remarks

Toronto s zero tolerance policy
Toronto’ s Zero Tolerance Policy

  • In effect at public meetings

  • Discriminatory comments will not be listened to

  • Proclamation of individual’s fundamental right to housing without discrimination

“… this Committee is determined to fight NIMBY-ism whenever and wherever it arises. We will not allow ignorance or prejudice to block the right of individuals and families to live in affordable housing in any corner of our great City.”

Councillor Mammoliti, Chair, Affordable Housing Committee

Open the toolbox planning tools
Open the Toolbox: Planning Tools

  • Wide range of planning tools:

    • Comprehensive & long-range plans to establish overall growth


    • Comprehensive or site-specific zoning bylaws

    • Site plans (or specific design controls)

  • Choose the right tools to develop good housing – think about the housing developer, housing provider and future occupants as well as the neighbourhood

Good practices planning tools
Good Practices: Planning Tools

  • Create overall housing strategy

  • Develop policy for affordable and/or supportive housing in all

  • neighbourhoods

  • Establish as-of-right zoning to permit a range of housing

  • throughout

  • Identify residential areas to permit as-of-right zoning for

  • supportive, and higher density housing

  • Integrate land use and infrastructure planning into comprehensive

  • plans

  • Set design guidelines for infill and intensification policies

Richmond hill intensifying the suburbs
Richmond Hill: Intensifying the Suburbs

“People Plan Richmond Hill”

Growth through intensification, to comply with Ontario Act

Use variety of means to communicate density, infill, intensification, links to transit, including 3-D modelling

Lessons learned richmond hill
Lessons Learned: Richmond Hill

  • Emphasize transit as basis for intensifying

  • Emphasize public realm and place-making instead of just buildings and density

  • Maximize participation: inclusive, diverse

  • Offer a range of formats, venues, including interactive website, on-line polling

  • Connect to community history: remind everyone of the nature of change

Listen community engagement
Listen: Community Engagement

  • Listening: “the Golden Rule of politics”

  • One of the most common complaints:

    • “I had no idea that this project was proposed”

  • Challenge for municipalities = finding a voice (or proxy) for

  • future occupants of affordable or supportive housing

  • A good communication strategy can be the first positive

  • step to gaining community acceptance

Good practices engagement
Good Practices: Engagement

  • Have a strategy: don’t “wing it”

  • Take advantage of wide range of techniques, forums – direct and indirect

  • Stress the positive

  • Link to municipality’s vision and plans

  • Be well prepared

  • Establish rules of behaviour at meetings

  • Identify champions

  • Work collaboratively with the developer

  • Develop media strategy

  • Bring in experts to address concerns

  • If particularly contentious, consider an advisory committee

Montr al saint eug ne seniors
Montréal Saint Eugène Seniors

  • 156 low-income seniors apartments

  • New construction and adaptive re-use of church

  • Unanticipated objections arose: height, density, traffic,

  • loss of trees, materials

  • Montréal’s Housing Strategy and Charter used to:

  • -Show need for 5000 social housing units

  • -Remind that public meetings NOT required

Lessons learned mont r al saint eug ne
Lessons Learned: Montréal Saint Eugène

  • Do not underestimate nature or extent of community concern

  • Do not assume seniors’ housing always supported

  • Engage with community early on

  • Listen to community and be prepared to adapt and compromise

  • Address residents’ concerns: they might lead to better project (and in this case, more units)

Learn education tools
Learn: Education Tools

  • Education is a two-way street

  • Provide access to as much information as possible – level

  • the field

  • Provide opportunities to learn about planning in general, as

  • well as site-specific projects

Good practices educational
Good Practices: Educational

  • Prepare simple fact sheets for community meetings and media

  • Establish general education materials by:

    • Working with developers and housing advocates

    • Engaging experts to create catalogue of visuals

    • Drawing on local historical information

  • Bring in subject experts (lawyers, engineers, foresters, etc.)

  • Go outside the “classroom” – organize site visits and tours

Ottawa planning primer
Ottawa Planning Primer

  • Citizens learn about and get involved in planning processes

  • Two core courses and two electives run by staff with outside experts, as needed

  • Aim is to build strong relationships between City and neighbourhoods

  • Videos and on-line material enhance

Lessons learned ottawa planning primer
Lessons Learned: Ottawa Planning Primer

  • Planning Primer is a “necessary” but not “necessarily sufficient” tool to broaden residents’ perspective beyond neighbourhood

  • Create educational opportunities in neutral, advocacy-free way

  • Use planners and other experts to create professional atmosphere

  • Emphasize facts: focus on “what” and “how” to level the field between citizens and experts

  • Residents gain better appreciation of inter-connectedness of municipal decisions

Follow up implement and monitor
Follow up: Implement and Monitor

  • Municipal officials follow the process from approval to on- the-ground built form

  • What about looking at post-occupancy?

    • -Have any of the community worries come to pass?

    • -How have new residents fit in? How have they contributed to the neighbourhood?

  • Keep track, monitor, develop good local examples

  • Identify data and information easily collected and tracked

  • Tie in with existing municipal monitoring programs

  • Supplement technical info with visual or audio records

  • Draw on local success stories in future controversial proposals

Housing in my backyard

ACT Grant Application Deadline:

20 November 2009