Calling neighbourhood activists “NIMBYs” shuts down debate and stifles real solutions

We need to debate whether our rush to up-zone and redevelop the whole city is driving up the cost of real estate.

The term NIMBY is increasingly being used against neighbourhood-based activists opposing development.  Calling people “NIMBYs” has proven an effective way to shut down discussion and stifle debate.  While global capital and speculation in our real estate market is a factor driving up prices, enabling that is our rush to up-zone and redevelop every inch of the city with new condo towers.

A flashpoint for NIMBY name-calling is the No Tower campaign in Grandview-Woodland, where many see the Boffo/Kettle proposal as bringing needed density to the neighbourhood.  But, for the proponents of the No Tower position, the supposed NIMBYs here, the ripple effect of rising land values and rents if we allow 200 market-priced condos into a relatively low-income, high-rental area of the neighbourhood is not worth 30 additional social housing units.  We might add 30 social housing units, but at what cost to the other low-income and vulnerable renters in the immediate vicinity of the tower?  As many activists in the Downtown Eastside, Marpole, and the West End will tell you, building new, both condo and rental towers, in this market, has been a recipe for skyrocketing land value, rent, and displacement of low and modest-income residents.

Vancouver City Council already approves more new development than is needed for population growth.  In this market, where speculation reigns, large-scale up-zoning of neighbourhoods raises rather than lowers housing prices.  Density is driving up the cost of land, which is driving up the cost of housing.  The best affordability will come from controlling speculation, building within current zoning for the most part (current zoning is already enough to accommodate the influx of population according to the City’s own report), and respecting the rights of citizens to have a say in their own neighbourhoods.

Resorting to ad hominems rather than promoting healthy debate only fuels the capacity of development promoters to set the terms of the debate, something that will ultimately undermine the very city we all care so much about.

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