Democracy in Action?: NIMBY as Impediment to Equitable Affordable Housing Siting

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Housing Studies


Effective democracy requires participation. However, the history of urban politics, housing policy, and neighborhood revitalization has demonstrated that wealth and power often overshadow participation and community activism. Proponents of equity planning and advocacy planning in the USA have fought to include vulnerable, marginalized populations within planning decisions, yet there have been few examples of this in action. We apply Fainstein’s principles of The Just City (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010) to investigate the extent to which local opposition affects affordable housing development. In doing so, we question the extent to which housing policy and planning in the USA successfully achieve the goals of equity and fairness, or whether not-in-my-backyard forces operating within (and beyond) “democratic” planning processes override those principles in siting decisions. Our results suggest that community opposition is a considerable barrier to the efficient siting of affordable housing, and propose changes to local planning and implementation strategies in order to minimize opposition and produce more equitable outcomes.



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