The Not In My Backyard movement, commonly referred to as NIMBY-ism, is a phenomenon where local residents organize to protest and discourage development in their neighborhoods. The term can be traced back to the 1970s, when residents of Seabrook, New Hampshire, came together - unsuccessfully - to protest the construction of a nuclear power plant. (britannica.com, 2019)
Nowadays, NIMBY-ism has largely negative connotations stemming from the fact that many of those protesting new development tend to be white, upper-middle class, politically-connected homeowners who fear new housing developments will cause their property values to drop.
Recently, moves by many states to ban single-family zoning have been a central flashpoint for NIMBY activism. In order to allow the multi-family units required to accommodate growing populations, States like California, with its recently passed SB-9 bill, have made it legal state-wide to convert single-family homes into duplexes and quadplexes.
The NIMBY movement has been particularly effective in discouraging development because of its outsized influence at the public hearings held to discuss local project proposals across the country. And because these project proposals fall under the purview of local politicians, these politicians usually cede ground to the loudest voice in the room – NIMBY – because they want to be reelected. Less cynically, many local policy makers are reluctant to allow development due to the fact that the majority of the revenue amassed from a larger tax-base (more people, more taxable income) typically goes to the federal government. (economist.com, 2021)
Though NIMBY-ism is not all negative. Many people point to the environmentalism behind much Not In My Back Yard sentiment – including the original 1970s dispute over the power plant in Seabrook – as a positive, as long as it is done with the collective good in mind instead of simply pawning off some ugly, environmentally toxic development onto another community. (sierraclub.org, 2020)