The strange death of NIMBY England
28 Jan 2015
Last week we revealed more evidence of the sheer level of anxiety among voters about housing, particularly parents anxious about their children’s future. Heading into the election, it’s making housing a top 5 issue for voters.
Up to now, though, anxiety has not always been joined by public support for the solution: building more homes. Sure, people have always agreed with the need for more homes generally, but “not here, not there”, not locally; not in my backyard. This has led nervous governments of all stripes to push short-cut solutions, like Help to Buy.
But some interesting independent research we’re highlighting today shows how attitudes to building more homes locally have shifted in recent years. As anxiety has risen about the problem, public acceptance of the solution has risen with it.
1. NIMBYism has collapsed across all voter groups.
In 2010, there was not a single voter group who overall supported more homes being built in their local area. By 2013 there was not a single voter group who didn’t.
*Caution: small UKIP sample
2. The decline in NIMBYism is particularly startling among those who voted Conservative in 2010.
3. The turnaround in support for new homes locally cuts across all age groups, with the decline in NIMBYism particularly marked among the 55-65 and the 65+ group.
4. And there’s been a big change in homeowners attitudes, too.
The shift change here is too large to be dismissed. It’s hard to reach any conclusion than the obvious: as people have started to worry more about symptoms of the housing shortage (a generation priced out, high rents, overcrowding), they have accepted the need for the solution – building more homes – even in their local area. The failure of a generation of short-cut solutions and gimmicks has probably helped things along the way. That might also explain why Help to Buy, for instance, fares so poorly in polling compared to housebuilding solutions.
It doesn’t mean that public support for new homes locally is unconditional. As our conversations with voters in Medway showed (part of our Wolfson prize entry to design a new Garden City), to lock in local support for more homes you need to convince people they will be (a) affordable and (b) for people like them. But do that, and opposition can be quelled.
Of course, even beyond that there will probably always be a handful of opponents – but for the first time in recent history, we can say they are consigned to a tiny unrepresentative minority.
It all adds up to a huge political opportunity in the election: to own the anxiety of a whole generation of young people and their parents and be the party who solves the housing crisis once and for all, by building the homes we need. There can be no more excuses.