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As explained by Wikipedia:

NIMBY (an acronym for the phrase "Not In My Back Yard"), or Nimby (as a word, instead of an acronym), is a pejorative characterization of opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development because it is close to them (or, in some cases, because the development involves controversial or potentially dangerous technology) often with the connotation that such residents believe that the developments are needed in society but should be further away. The residents are often called Nimbys and their state of mind is called Nimbyism.

Are there cities/countries which successfully deal with this problem, without violating basic principles of democracy? E.g. perhaps some countries delegate controversial projects to a vote by the state legislature, rather than allowing the city residents to vote directly?

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    I concede that a few discontents are still here, but I don't think that anything short of stopping the project would have satisfied them anyway. And my guess is that it would be the same with any NIMBY commitee. So now my question for you is: what do you define as "succesfully dealing with it"?
    – Federico
    May 7 '17 at 11:24
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    @JonathanReez Do you want to restrict freedom of speech and peaceful protest? Because most definitions of democracy would allow these, even against democratically legitimated decisions.
    – Philipp
    May 7 '17 at 12:36
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    Basically, any democracy fits this in the specific case where majority supports the position except for small minority directly geographically affected - by virtue of punting the decision to wider locale (city to county, county to state, state to federal).
    – user4012
    May 7 '17 at 13:19
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    What would count as “successfully deal” with this problem in your eyes? Sure, every country has one or two examples of large projects that takes forever but stuff generally gets built. And city residents voting directly is the exception rather than the rule. More often than not when some large infrastructure project faces strong opposition it's through a grass-root movement or perhaps activists forcing the hands of the institutions. And they are mostly unsuccessful.
    – Relaxed
    May 7 '17 at 19:09
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    I'll try to provide a proper answer later, but Japan's land use laws at the national level are often hailed as anti-NIMBY.
    – ohwilleke
    May 31 '17 at 21:46
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+25

The only real solution to NIMBYism is to move power from local towards national levels. Otherwise, you get... well... democracy.

People want their political system to improve their own lives, and to represent their own interests. At a city or neighborhood level, increased development means higher density, more people, slower traffic, slower property appreciation, and the like. Why would they be for that?

The solution, of course, to move the political decision-making to a level at which both the problems and solutions have to be considered together, and for which reasonable trade-offs can be made.

The more local the decision-making, the more likely NIMBY considerations will come to prevail. Politics is all about trade-offs, and if the decisions are made where countervailing interests don't have to be considered, they won't be.

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    -1: Although everything in this answer may be true, it does not answer the question (what countries/cities deal the problem, and how). Also, answers based solely on "common sense" rhetoric are discouraged here and may attract downvotes and/or denials.
    – bytebuster
    Jun 1 '17 at 0:48
  • "increased development means … slower property appreciation" This seems counterintuitive, do you have a source for it? Jul 24 '19 at 2:37
  • The other solution widely touted is just the opposite. Move the authority to regulate development to a micro-level of just a few blocks in size at the sub-municipal level.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 19 at 23:48
  • Link to Japan nationalizing zoning and getting success. sightline.org/2021/03/25/… Hyperlocal zoning discussed here manhattan-institute.org/…
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 20 at 20:26
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There are couple of examples i can give from Turkey:

  1. Gold Mine project in Erzincan
  2. Thermal Power Plant projects in the city of Amasra, and Trakya region.
  3. Third Airport to Istanbul

Most of these projects are still contested by the locals, but probably will be carried out. Most of the time the way to deal with locals is to promise them jobs in the projects. With high levels of unemployment, this becomes attractive especially to youth. In an ideal system if this doesn't balance out the impacts of the project in the community, we would expect the annulation of the project.
However most of the time, in a law dispute, private companies have a very strong lawyer team that works things out, mostly by convincing locals to accept a certain amount of money for their expenses. This almost never cover the expenses of the locals though.


If it is the state that proposes the project, depending on the national benefit of the project, we can observe an annulation to deportation of locals to some place else. The deportation almost always ends up in misery, because one doesn't really notice it in urban areas but in rural areas where you live really matters and it determines one's way of life, you loose your place, you loose your way of life. This has happened in the construction of the dams in the south-east of Turkey. Even some archaeological sites went under the water, but the dams created the necessary infrastructure in order to farm the land for later generations.
I honestly believe that proposing jobs or a privilaged access to jobs and improving overall infrastructure of the locals (schools, hospitals,etc) is a reasonable way to convince people, when, of course, the project doesn't involve any health consequence in the long run, as in the case of gold mine project in Erzincan or plantations.

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  • In countries with a higher level of income, standard of living, and all that, you don’t lure people with promises about their standard of living anymore. Their standard of living is already so high, that they just don’t want anything that could change their view in their neighborhood.
    – jjack
    Dec 28 '17 at 19:34
  • I don't disagree with your final paragraph, but is that really a democratic system, or just a smart way to convince people?
    – gerrit
    Sep 11 '18 at 11:39
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In the UK, for housing, the central government tells local authorities how many houses (at a minimum) they must grant permission for, but they can then decide where in their area those houses can be built. That seems to strike a reasonable balance between meeting national needs and allowing local democracy, although of course it’s not feasible for large one-off projects. And it’s only partially successful — the UK still doesn’t build enough houses.

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  • It also doesn't do anything about more high profile Nimby incidents like Heathrow expansion or Dover customs check parks.
    – Jontia
    Aug 21 at 19:55
  • As far as I can tell its still super hard to upgrade housing density in the UK? I.e. if I buy a single family home in London, how hard is it to tear it down and build a 4-story apartment building instead? In a no-NIMBY system the answer is: zero days, you just do it and everyone who dislikes it are told to deal with it. Aug 21 at 19:57
  • @JonathanReez that particular change might be quite difficult, but other density increases attract less trouble. Locally (zone 4, london) I've seen a 4 bed detatched turned into 3, 4bed terraced houses. A retirement home into a 12 residence apparment block and a rapid increase in 12-20 story apartment buildings along train lines heading into London. So it can and is happening. Although I imagine none of that comes with zero days permission. If nothing else someone needs to crunch infrastructure numbers for schools, GPs, parking and so on.
    – Jontia
    Aug 21 at 20:04
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In England and Wales, a central government agency, the Planning Inspectorate, adjudicates on so-called Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. The system was set up under the Planning Act 2008 for controversial projects that were deemed nationally important such as airports, major wind farms, and nuclear power stations, with the expansion of Heathrow Airport one reason for its creation (see the Wikipedia pages I link above for more details).

This removes planning decisions from local government, reduces consultation requirements, and attempts to speed up the process by imposing time limits. Initially it gave powers to an independent commission, but in 2011 an amendment gave central government more control.

It has arguably worked for some projects, such as the Thames Tideway sewer tunnel, although Heathrow Airport still isn't any bigger, and especially in early years very few scheme were even submitted (2 in the first year, one of which were rejected).

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  • This seems like an example of a failure to fight NIMBYism? Only successful project is a tunnel that's pretty much out of sight, out of mind for the NIMBYs. Aug 21 at 19:55
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After doing a lot of reading about this since 2017, the answer can be broken down into two groups:

  1. Corrupt/poorly managed nations where builders can do whatever they want with zero oversight. One example would be Dagestan in Russia where home owners just go ahead and add new extensions to existing apartment buildings, no matter how ugly or unsafe this looks. Other examples include the slums of India, former slums of Hong Kong, favelas of Brazil and numerous other developing nations.

  2. Japan. It seems like the only developed nation where the construction process is relatively corruption free but also NIMBY-resistant is Japan. This wonderful blog post includes a great illustration of how it works there. The first image illustrates the zoning logic in Japan, the second is how it works in North America and in Europe to a certain extent:
    enter image description here
    enter image description here

The table above is sourced from the Japanese Ministry of Land which showcases their zoning logic:

enter image description here

This still means that there are areas in Japan that are exclusively reserved for single family homes but those are not dominating Japanese cities. Japanese real estate costs remained relatively stable since the 1980s bubble burst:

enter image description here

Since the year 2000, Japan's housing price index dropped from 138 to 110. Meanwhile in the US they've increased from 63 to 142. Its not apples-to-apples comparison as Japan's population is shrinking while America's is growing but overall Japan somehow managed to avoid the rapid increase in housing costs over the past two decades.

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