New Civic Housebuilding: How to build homes and influence people

Last week, Shelter released our vision for how to build the homes we need: New Civic Housebuilding. The weekend’s Sunday papers covered our exclusive new research into attitudes to new homes – here we set out the analysis of our findings.


Public Support for new housebuilding


As part of our research into the attitudes of English adults toward new homes, covered extensively last week (for example see here, here and here), we found that twice as many English adults supported new homes being built in their local area, as opposed them. This matches what we saw in recent British Social Attitudes survey results, with opposition to the principle of housebuilding ‘in my local area’ collapsing in recent years.

However, whilst we have come a long way since 2010, a year in which almost half the British adults surveyed (46%) stated opposition to new homes, there remains very active pockets of opposition which can deter development. Our researchers decided to investigate what was driving this active opposition to new housing.


There are far more ‘Active NIMBYs’ than ‘Active YIMBYs’


Surveying a representative group of more than 3,500 English adults, we found that whilst only 4% had actively supported a new housing development (signing an online petition, attending a protest/meeting, writing to the council etc.), 12% had actively opposed a new housing development. This three to one in favour of active opposition, stands in stark contrast to the strong overall support shown for new homes.[1]

If we can find a way to convince these people of the benefits of new homes, we should be well on the way to building the number of homes we need. So what is driving this active opposition?


As strange as it is to say, it might not be that ‘Active NIMBYs’ don’t want new homes


Of those who had actively opposed new housing developments in the last three years, 39% actually say that they ‘support new homes being built in their local area’.

Whilst this may seem surprising at first glance, it hints at Active NIMBYs not necessarily refusing to consider the merits of new homes, point blank.

In fact, with 8% of these Active NIMBYs saying they would strongly support new homes in their local area, it suggests that a significant proportion of NIMBYs may be opposing homes not out of the desire to stop homes altogether, but rather because they believe that new homes should contribute more to the local area.

I for one can understand that as a position. Too often, communities spend time putting together Local and Neighbourhood Plans – only to find that proposals for new housing development ride roughshod over their requirements, based on arguments of ‘viability’.



New Civic Housebuilding follows in the footsteps of successful new places from the model villages of Bourneville and New Lanark, to New Towns such as Milton Keynes. It is focused on keeping the upfront cost of land down, and then getting that land into the hands of organisations who will build the new homes that deliver genuine benefits for those who live in and around them.


The affordability of new homes, and their impact on local services and infrastructure is front of NIMBY minds


Our Active NIMBYs were provided with a list of seven potential requirements for new housing developments, and asked whether any of them would make them more likely to support new homes in their area.

All of the changes would make some difference, taken alone or in combination. However, we wanted to know what the key things are that make Active NIMBYs more likely to support new homes. Three stood out:


  1. Over half (55%) of Active NIMBYs said they would be more likely to support the building of new homes in the local area if it meant improvements were made to local roads and infrastructure.


  1. Half (50%) would be more likely to support new homes if the new homes were more affordable for local people.


  1. Nearly half (48%) would if the building of new homes meant a new school or GP surgery was provided (i.e. by the property developer, or the local council).


Overall, 7 in 10 Active NIMBYs said that they were likely to support new homes if one or more of the three above changes were made. This suggests that far from being blanket refusers, these people have legitimate concerns around the impact that new housing will have on their local area (and whether they will actually be affordable to anyone they know). These concerns are greatly increasing the chorus of voices against new homes currently, and need to be addressed if we are to get to 250,000 new homes per year.


Not all NIMBYs are the same


By genuinely engaging with Active NIMBYs and their communities (70% of Active NIMBYs believe their local community is not listened to properly by developers and/or councils when new homes are proposed), the path to 250,000 new homes per year could be so much easier.

Of course, there will be some who can never be persuaded.

But after finding that less than 1 in 5 Active NIMBYs felt that none of the options we provided would make a difference, the stage is set for a better way of doing housebuilding.

By bringing land forward for development at a lower up-front cost, our New Civic Housebuilding model leaves more money for affordable, good quality homes with the infrastructure needed to support them. This avoids the trade-offs which so many have come to see as central to the housebuilding process, allowing us to both prioritise the wishes of local communities, and to deliver the number of homes we need.

We have an inkling that many Active NIMBYs, passionate about genuinely good housing as they are, will actually be some of its greatest supporters.


To find out more about New Civic Housebuilding, visit the website here.





[1] Online YouGov survey including 3,746 English adults – conducted between 13th and 15th of February.