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Unveiling Renters' Hidden NIMBYism

This research shows that renters in high-cost cities can be just as prone to NIMBYism as homeowners, even as they theoretically support more housing. This is housing supply's collective action problem.
February 13, 2017, 5am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Common wisdom holds that homeowners in high-cost cities trend toward NIMBYism, while renters favor development. In research for Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, Michael Hankinson puts that assumption to the test.

He writes, "Despite its popularity as a scapegoat, there is no individual-level, empirical data on how NIMBYism operates and among whom." To gather that data, Hankinson turned to the most unaffordable market of all: San Francisco. His polling data suggests that "in high-housing cost cities, renters and homeowners both oppose new residential developments proposed for their neighborhoods."

In some cases, local NIMBYism among renters actually exceeded that of homeowners. "This seeming disconnect between views on citywide and local development policies creates a classic collective action problem for those policymakers who must find ways to reconcile the conflicting views."

Renters in high-cost areas were still more supportive of citywide increases in housing supply, just not on their block. "In fact, renters in expensive cities show just as much support for a 10 percent increase in their city's housing supply as renters in more affordable cities. The main difference between these groups of renters is their NIMBYism."

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Published on Tuesday, February 7, 2017 in Joint Center for Housing Studies
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