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How "Nimbyism" is Hindering the UK's Efforts to Solve the Housing Crisis

View profile for Nick Fielding
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The UK has been facing a severe housing crisis for many years, with a growing population and a shortage of affordable housing. The government has been struggling to find solutions to this problem, and one of the main obstacles to resolving the housing crisis is nimbyism, or "Not In My Back Yard" syndrome. Nimbyism is a term used to describe the opposition of residents to new development projects, particularly those involving housing, in their local area. This article explores how nimbyism is negatively affecting the UK's ability to manage the ongoing housing crisis.

Nimbyism has been a significant problem in the UK for decades, and it is hindering the government's efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing. Many people are resistant to new housing developments in their local area, fearing that it will decrease the value of their own property, increase traffic and noise, or change the character of their community.

According to a report by the National Housing Federation, the UK needs to build 340,000 new homes per year to meet demand, but only 240,000 are being built. The report states that "local opposition to housing developments remains a significant barrier to delivering the homes the country needs." The report also highlights the impact of the housing crisis on young people, stating that "a lack of affordable housing is a significant barrier to social mobility, with young people unable to find homes that they can afford to buy or rent in areas with good job opportunities."

The effects of the housing crisis are far-reaching. Homelessness is on the rise, with an estimated 320,000 people homeless in the UK in 2020. The lack of affordable housing also affects people's ability to find work, as they may not be able to afford to live in areas where jobs are available. It puts pressure on public services such as healthcare and education, as overcrowding becomes an issue in areas with a shortage of housing.

One of the main reasons for the lack of affordable housing is the limited availability of land on which to build new homes. The UK has a limited amount of land, and much of it is protected by planning regulations. However, many of these regulations were introduced to protect the environment and historic buildings, rather than to restrict housing development. In addition, there are many brownfield sites, which are former industrial or commercial sites that could be used for housing development. However, these sites often require significant investment to make them suitable for housing.

To address the housing crisis, the government has introduced a number of initiatives, such as the previous Help to Buy scheme, the Affordable Homes Programme, and the new First Homes scheme. However, these initiatives can only go so far in addressing the underlying issue of the lack of affordable housing. The government needs to increase the supply of housing in areas where it is needed the most, and this requires the cooperation of local communities.

According to Tom Copley, the deputy mayor of London for housing, "Nimbyism is the single biggest barrier to tackling London's housing crisis. We need to build at least 66,000 homes a year to meet demand, but we have an acute shortage of land and local opposition to new development remains one of the biggest challenges we face."

One possible way to overcome nimbyism is through community engagement. The government should work closely with local communities to understand their concerns and address them in the planning process. This could involve providing information about the benefits of new housing developments, such as the provision of affordable homes, possible financial contributions towards local infrastructure, such as doctors and schools, and the creation of new jobs. It could also involve working with local residents to ensure that new developments are designed in a way that is sympathetic to the local environment and community.

According to Kate Henderson, the CEO of the National Housing Federation, "We need to find ways to bring communities along with us and address their concerns. That's not easy, but we believe it's possible." The key is to find a balance between the need for new housing and the concerns of local residents. This requires a collaborative approach, with the government, developers, and local communities working together to find solutions to the housing crisis.

In conclusion, nimbyism is a significant obstacle to the UK's efforts to manage the ongoing housing crisis. The shortage of affordable housing has far-reaching consequences, from homelessness to the strain on public services. To address this crisis, the government needs to increase the supply of affordable housing in areas where it is needed the most. However, this requires the cooperation of local communities, and nimbyism remains a significant barrier to progress. By engaging with local communities and finding ways to address their concerns, we can overcome nimbyism and build the homes the country needs


If you have a site going through planning currently or are in the formative stages of design, or if you have any questions about the contents of the article and the implications for your plan, Chattertons' Commercial Property and/or its Land Development & New Homes Team can help discuss your options.

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Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that it is correct at the time of first publication it may not be updated. This article reflects the opinion of the author and is not intended to be specific legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Chattertons are not responsible for any action taken or not taken as a result of this article.