To tackle “NIMBY” opposition to affordable housing, call their bluff with a reserve fund

When new affordable housing projects are proposed for a community, residents who already live there will often protest with “property value panic syndrome.” Such “not in my backyward” reactions are so common that they’re known by their shorthand: NIMBY.

Here’s a possible policy solution for NIMBYism: establish a reserve that would reimburse homeowners if housing prices suddenly fell as a result of the new affordable housing development.

As CityLab reported, it’s a raw idea offered by the executive director of the Yonkers Municipal Housing Authority, Joseph Shuldner. An official at the Ford Foundation further noted that their own research found the “overwhelming evidence is that affordable housing investments do not have negative price effects AS A RULE and can, conversely, actually upgrade some neighborhoods.”

Thus, the fund is unlikely to be tapped. As Shuldner posited, “[m]y own experience is that payouts from this fund would be few and far between.”

The purpose of a NIMBY reserve would instead be to assuage the powerfully motivating fears of a sudden depreciation in the value of what’s typically a person’s biggest investment. In another sense, it would be calling the bluff of opponents who use good faith personal economic arguments as cover. It’s no secret that predominantly white, affluent communities are often the most vocally resistant to racially diverse, lower-income people moving in as neighbors. 

For more information, a good starting point is here: “Diagnosing and Treating ‘Property-Value Panic’ Syndrome,” CityLab (2015).