Diplomacy in Development – How to deal with NIMBY-ism

The word NIMBY-ism for “Not in My Backyard” is one of the most challenging issues commercial real estate developers face. This mentality will not only delay new development projects, but also increases the cost of projects, and may even derail projects altogether. Thus, one must know how to deal with NIMBY-ism from the project’s very beginning. All NIMBY opponents are not the same, so it is important to be aware of multiple ways of engaging project opponents as well as master new and innovative methods of diplomacy.

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Top 5 ways to deal with NIMBY-ism

Here are 5 strategies to handle NIMBY-ism and critical citizen opposition below:

  1. Initiate a Meeting with the Locals

Before you get started with your dream project, engage the community members first. If you are able to identify and meet with key association leaders or neighborhood influencers, you will be able to understand their view of the development project and test the community’s acceptance of said project. You will also learn their areas of concern so you can better prepare your pitch for the remainder of the community. Who knows, you may walk away from the initial meeting with some supporters for your project if you listen well and show respect for their views.


  1. Make Your Project Community Based

In almost every meeting, residents are often concerned about how the development project will directly affect them. The best way to counter NIMBY-ism is to be prepared and have a plan that you can modify. You may find that you will have a plethora of silent and vocal supporters if your project is based on including elements of community over self. Emphasize that the project will create new construction jobs, as well as ensure that local suppliers, and merchants will benefit from the project. In fact, you should meet with those in the community that will benefit directly from your project and ask them to provide testimonials of support that you display on websites and social media.


  1. Utilize Technology to Understand Local Concerns

Be sure to start a new website for every new project and also register any opposition website names that you can think of to redirect these to your positive message website.  In order to get ahead of misinformation or opponents spreading a disinformation campaign, utilize technology to provide accurate information about the goals of your project. Tools such as targeted Facebook and Instagram Ads can provide locals information about the project and have a “swipe up” feature which can take them to a short survey where the locals can share their feelings about the development project. The more you are able to get ahead of the public information in advance, and show broad but sometimes silent support, the easier it is to minimize misinformation and address different concerns.


  1. Have An Open Door Policy and Fast Response Team

Your inbox may get flooded with emails, and your voicemails may be constantly full, but you should do your very best to keep a proverbial open-door policy in which the locals receive responses from your team or a PR team that you have hired. You should listen in on these conversations and stress that your development project is going to change the neighborhood positively and focus on more education within the neighborhood. These actions will allow for more understanding and promote the progress you are bringing to the community.


  1. Negotiate with a Positive Attitude

In some circumstances, you may have to compromise with the surrounding neighborhood or locale by making project modifications. Small modifications can reverse the entire negative vibe associated with a development project. Adding attractive services or amenities to your project that will benefit the greater community will sometimes counterbalance the perception of the negative impacts.

While there are a lot of factors to influence the success of a development project, the best developers will work alongside community supporters to push their project forward. While there will always be cases of locals objecting to new projects being built or current projects being renovated, good public relations and the art of negotiation are crucial. So, if you are planning to start a real estate development then make sure to develop a community-based project plan that preemptively addresses the concerns of NIMBY-ism to ensure your investment goes as smoothly as possible. Good luck!


Top Image: Getty Images – simpson33

About Author

Samuel White is a candidate in the Master of Science in Real Estate program at the University of San Diego School of Business (class of 2022).

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