|Author: Doug Bibby|
|Date: October 1, 2003|
Reprinted with permission from Apartment Finance Today (October 2003)
Research Refutes the NIMBY Myth
by Doug Bibby, President, National Multi Housing Council
Ask a local official about apartments off the record, and many will admit that their community needs more. They know they need apartment communities to house working families, to combat sprawl, to create jobs and to meet the increased demand for housing that's coming from Echo Boomers and continued immigration. They know that without multifamily housing, they risk economic stagnation.
But ask that same local official about a specific apartment proposal or ask them about apartments within earshot of a constituent, and the tune often changes. They know they need rental housing, but they also know that resident concerns about property values and traffic congestion generate unfounded opposition to new apartments. Fearful of paying the price at the ballot box, they often acquiesce.
Fortunately, a substantial amount of new research is available confirming what the National Multi Housing Council and National Apartment Association have been telling local officials for years: that when local not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) activists rush to protest new apartments, they do more harm to their communities than they recognize. Apartments, it turns out, including affordable apartments, not only do not harm property values but can, in fact, be a net plus to communities.
So next time you cross paths with NIMBY complainers, don't just tell them they're wrong; show them! Cite this research from Harvard University, Virginia Tech, the University of Wisconsin, Wayne State University and The Family Housing Fund (and this is just a partial list!):
- "The Vitality of America's Working Communities" from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, uses U.S. Census data from 1970 to 2000 to find that apartments do not threaten the value of nearby single-family houses. Furthermore, the average value of owner-occupied houses was actually highest in working communities (defined as neighborhoods in which residents earn between 60% and 100% of area-wide median income) that have the most apartments.
- "On Common Ground: Apartments and Detached Home Values," written by a Virginia Tech professor (and the director of graduate studies in urban affairs and planning) concludes that over the long run, a well-located apartment building with attractive landscaping and entranceways probably raises the overall value of detached homes compared to having no apartments nearby. The report also notes that locating apartments near major transportation access points minimizes traffic congestion, which disarms that perennial NIMBY rallying cry.
- "Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Housing Developments and Property Values" from the University of Wisconsin, finds that contrary to conventional wisdom, low-income housing developments often cause surrounding property values to increase. It notes with interest that past research has generally found that such developments have a more positive impact in higher-income areas.
- "A Review of Existing Research on the Effects of Federally Assisted Housing Programs on Neighboring Residential Property Values," from an urban affairs professor at Michigan's Wayne State University, supports the claim that apartments are critical to revitalization efforts. The author measures property values both before and after affordable housing is built, rather than just after. Like many studies, it found that assisted housing has an insignificant or positive effect on property values in higher-value, less vulnerable neighborhoods, but is likely to improve property values in lower-value, more vulnerable neighborhoods.
- Whether you live in Minnesota or not, check out "A Study of the Relationship between Affordable Family Rental Housing and Home Values in the Twin Cities." It examines three standards of single-family house performance - sales price per square foot, percentage of sales price to asking price, and time on the market in 12 Twin City neighborhoods where a tax credit rental housing development was located within an area of owner-occupied homes. The study finds nearly no negative effects, and many positive effects, to integrating tax credit rental housing into these neighborhoods.
The brief descriptions I have provided are just a sampling of the growing number of academically rigorous, peer-reviewed studies that shoot holes in many of the arguments of the forces of NIMBYism.
I know that hard-core opponents of development of any kind probably will not be swayed by this data. However, there is a large number of reasonable people who oppose rental housing development primarily because of misinformation. These research reports give you the facts to refute their fears, giving them far less reason to oppose your project. In short, letting the facts speak for you just might work.
The data can be also be used to make your case to local officials for zoning and land-use decisions.
Copyright Information: Reprinted with permission from Apartment Finance Today