The Nimby Is In Decline – We Needn’t Apologise For Building The Homes That Britain Needs

This article first appeared on The Huffington Post.

Theresa May’s speech last week put housing in the spotlight. A well-deserved spotlight in my view. It might not have generated as much social media buzz as the Frida Kahlo bracelet or the cough sweet, but social housing did enjoy its share of the limelight.

As many of us are aware, the Prime Minister announced a £2bn funding pot increase for social and council housing. Whilst it won’t solve the housing crisis overnight, it is a step in the right direction and confirmation that government is keen to address the need for more affordable housing. I can only welcome that.

Of course, this announcement sparked age-old concerns around nimbyism (the public cry of ‘not in my back yard’ when it comes to housing developments). Will we be faced with the angry nimby brigade causing developers problems by raising objections to affordable housing schemes? Actually, any worries we have in that respect may not be entirely justified. The nimby, while not extinct, is starting to become a rarer species.

When it comes to social housing anyway.

In fact, according to The Times’ Anne Ashworth who shared a panel debate with my colleague Brian Ham at the Conservative Party Conference, nimbyism needs to make way for slimbyism (something logical in my backyard). And our research proves she’s onto something there…

At Home Group, during party conference season, we commissioned YouGov to find out whether people still adopt the nimby attitude. The results were heartening.

The survey revealed that the development of social housing is a more appealing prospect for the majority of Britons, compared to new build developments generally.

The results show that 38% of Brits surveyed would be happy for a social housing development to be built within half a mile of their home, compared to just 17% who were asked about housing developments generally.

Taking into account those who were indifferent, the results show that 75% of respondents would not oppose the build of social housing within half a mile of their home, compared to just 62% of those asked about housing developments generally.

It seems to me that the slimby really is on the rise (thanks Anne for a more positive acronym!). Perhaps we can promote slimbyism as the new members’ club you’d be proud to sign up to?

I read a little while ago that many millennials actively seek a career with ‘purpose’. People want to affect change, not just rake in the empty pounds. And I feel that we are heading in that direction with housing.

Of those asked the question about affordable housing specifically, the number in favour of a new social housing development increased to 46% in the 18-34 age category.

It seems that this age group might be happier to have social housing on their doorstep because it makes a difference. It has more of a social purpose. They see it as ‘something more logical’ to have in their backyard.

Personally, as somebody who has worked in social housing for many years, I find it heartening to see that there’s an appetite for new-build affordable housing developments. It shows that the work being done to challenge stigma around social housing is paying off.

Leading a large, national organisation like Home Group, we do need to build homes of all tenures, however, our core social purpose is to support the more vulnerable members of our society, and it’s wonderful to see that the public attitude is largely supportive of this.

Nobody should have to apologise for building the homes that Britain needs – and we know there is a desperate need for more social housing. Having a place to call home and being part of a supportive community is fundamental to independence, health and wellbeing. I believe that everybody deserves that opportunity.


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