'NIMBYISM' and Home Owners

A distinct trajectory of studies point to relationships between demographic characteristics and variations in local planning controls, as evidence of the ‘endogenous’ influence of homeowner interests in supporting particular


types of planning regulation (Carruthers 2002; Schuetz 2009; Quigley 2004; Kahn 2011). Glaeser and Ward (2009) found that demographic factors as well as historical patterns of density were sufficient to explain variation in planning control across a substantial database of regulations applying to local jurisdictions in the State of Massachusetts, whilst demographic features have also partially explained propensity to adopt local impact fees in King County, Washington (Mathur et al. 2009). Bramley and Watkins (2014b) show the expected association of attitudinal stances to planning for new housing with class, tenure, political affiliation and other demographics, and that this is quite closely related to actual stances at the local level (Matthews et al. 2015).

This implies a somewhat circular relationship between local community interests, planning controls, and housing supply and price outcomes, making it difficult to determine causality. At least one study has used this modelled relationship to assert that planning controls actually follow, rather than drive, the market (Pogodzinski and Sass 1994).

Community views about, and resistance to, development can have several effects—influencing decision makers about the amount and location of land to be allocated for housing, the restrictiveness of development controls governing the density and design of housing, and the views of local officials in relation to specific development proposals. The timing and extent of community consultation in the planning decision process has a major impact on the extent to which resident views operate to slow or constrain housing development within a particular area. Similarly, the capacity for local residents to legally challenge decisions to approve housing development can also introduce delays and costs to the planning process. Such constraints add to development costs and can have disproportionate effects on the supply of affordable housing.

In both the UK and the USA, local authorities have significant power over local planning frameworks and decisions. In some jurisdictions, however, the role of local residents in influencing planning regulations may be restricted by central government or state laws. For instance, in

Massachusetts, the state is able to overrule local planning provisions under certain circumstances, to enable affordable housing development, whilst in other states there are requirements for local authorities to accept ‘regional fair shares’ of new and affordable homes (Lewis 2005). In Australia where local governments are beholden to state legislation and subject to strong state oversight of planning decisions, some jurisdictions have enacted planning controls which override local restrictions on diverse or higher density housing types (Gurran 2011).

At the same time, the housing and development industry is comprised of different types of firms who operate in response to different opportunities and constraints. Even a highly restrictive planning framework might provide comparative advantages for certain types of developers who are able to operate within these parameters, or might establish the conditions of certainty needed to bring forward investment. It is also clear from UK experience with planning obligations that the land market can adapt over time to the imposition of additional planning obligations, so long as there is a stable policy commitment to these being imposed. This makes efforts to define and measure planning constraint particularly complex.

Obligations to contribute to affordable housing—through a financial contribution or by dedicating part of the site or development to provide housing for lower-income groups, raise particular issues. Such obligations are often challenged by arguments that development costs will be passed on to new house buyers in the form of higher prices, or that they will act as a deterrent to development overall. Research in the USA suggests that negative impacts are likely to be minor (Bento et al. 2009), although in some instances the affordable housing benefits may also be overstated (Schuetz et al. 2011). These issues are considered further in Chap. 11.

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