NIMBYs and YIMBYs: why is this development happening in my neighbourhood and what can I do about it?
Engagement. Involvement. These are things that the public doesn’t often think about when it comes to development and redevelopment issues in their cities and neighbourhoods. Often, it is an afterthought when the construction equipment rolls onto a site and demolishes a building, and servicing starts. And people ask, why didn’t I know about this? Why is this happening here?
Many complain. It isn’t what they want. They understand that their city or town is growing… but they don’t want it here. Not in my back yard (NIMBY).
But there’s a growing group of people, genuinely interested in what redevelopment can do for their neighbourhood: perhaps its reviving a neighbourhood with population decline over the years, that is older, more established, and closer to an urban core. Or perhaps it’s a neighbourhood with bigger lots that can be intensified by severance, or other means, to add density to a neighbourhood. They’re known to say: Yes, in my back yard (YIMBY).
Regardless of which side you fall on, let’s look at why this is happening. There are lots of reasons, and it is often complicated. A few of the main points are discussed below.
There are provincial rules of course: The Growth Plan currently mandates that each year, 40% of new population wanting to live in our cities is accommodated within the “built boundary” – that is the limit of where housing was in 2006. That may occur as a redeveloped school site that is sold for development, a lot severance, the construction of a mid rise or high rise building where there was once a two story structure. Meaning, for every 100 people who move here, 40 are to be accommodated in existing neighbourhoods. Of course, in Burlington it’s really 100% - the last big subdivision is being built now, and because it’s urban boundary has been reached, it is now 100% redevelopment. And as time goes on, the Provincial government has indicated that intensification number will increase: to 50% by the next municipal review for each town/city/region and 60% by the year 2031.
Then there is the financial aspect: it makes sense to locate people close to existing infrastructure, and make the best use of those investments. Regardless of whether the investment is public or private, an investment into transit, parks, business/commercial uses, sewers, water and roads should be well utilized. This isn’t to say there aren’t costs associated with redevelopment: there sure are. While there may be some capacity in sewers or roads, it isn’t infinite. But an investment into something like LRT or Go stations, warrants a significant number of riders, for whom it makes sense to provide living opportunities in close proximity. An LRT rider is not typically from Binbrook or Waterdown – it will benefit a growing number of residents along its route. Similarly for Go stations: the City of Burlington is working on its mobility hubs study, looking at ways to develop/redevelop areas in close proximity to their Go Stations and downtown transit hub. The two Go Stations in Hamilton are drivers for redevelopment activity there.
And lastly there is immigration policy: our Cities are expected to grow significantly between now and 2041 – Hamilton’s population is expected to hit 780,000 and the Region of Halton, 1,000,000 people.
So redevelopment is going to occur. Our cities are not allowed to say “no we won’t”. And we all know that change is often difficult to accept. What can you do about it? Be informed. Become educated on the why, the how, etc. It can be a good thing – gentle density (like secondary suites in larger homes, a lot severance, laneway housing) can bring new life and vibrancy to a community whose population has been declining. It can take an under-utilized commercial building and transform it into a mixed use community. Variety in supply helps housing prices stay more reasonable – one of the issues with soaring prices over the last few years is a lack of the right kind of supply – housing choices in a form and location where people want to live.
But you can have a say. Our Cities mandate public consultation for many development applications. Open houses and information sessions for residents are often held, or information packages made available. Go. Ask questions. But understand that saying “I don’t want development to occur here” – isn’t likely going to be successful. There are areas where development will be limited, and others where it will be significant. Learn why. Ask what’s in store for your neighbourhood.
Because when the excavator is pulling up next door, it’s too late.