Not in My Backyard:How NIMBY Mentality Is Hurting Indiana Communities

Not in my backyard! When an “unknown” factor moves into our communities, it can feel a bit threatening. This is where I live. Where I raise my family. Where I walk/run/bike/grocery shop/work. Where I feel secure. It can make us resistant to embrace change — and it can even make us fearful. To some extent, NIMBYism is human nature, an instinctual, subconscious response. But quite often, it is rooted in a lack of information. This is what we are here to provide.

Serving the Underserved

If one has a few million dollars to spend, finding a suitable home is not a problem. If one works 40 hours a week (or, in many cases, more) as a nurse, police officer, teacher, customer service rep, bank teller, plumber, construction worker, small business owner, etc., finding a suitable home is most assuredly a problem. This is true of two-income households as well.

The housing market, which was historically designed to meet the needs of the middle class, now excludes countless hard-working individuals and families. Households in Indiana have a median annual income of $55,746; with this income an attainable home is $150,000 – 200,000 based upon lending standards. The average cost for a new home in Indiana is $354,164.

A Majority of Hoosiers are Priced Out of Buying a New Home.

This should shock us all. There is very little homebuilding activity occurring that is priced for middle class Hoosiers.

NIMBYism and Achievable Housing

“There are two things driving NIMBYism: Fear is number one, and number two is a knowledge gap.”
Heather Worthington, Director of Long Range Planning, Minneapolis

When it comes to proposals concerning achievable housing, there are many — unfounded — fears, including:

  • Increased crime rates
  • Increased traffic and congestion
  • Lower property values
  • Overcrowded schools
  • Loss of community “character”

We say “unfounded” not to denigrate anyone’s worries, but to emphasize that the data does not bear these fears out. The reality is that thriving communities have a housing market with a wide spectrum of new homes available at price points that support and encourage a diverse, constantly evolving, and more resilient economy.

But, NIMBYism is strong. Much of the worry surrounds property values and crime. If achievable housing initiatives gain a foothold… there goes the neighborhood. So, let’s fight fear with facts. A comprehensive study from the minds at Stanford Business School found that the opposite is true. Crime rates decrease and property values increase when communities invest in, and support, achievable housing.

The fact is that a diverse community that encompasses people of different socioeconomic levels, races, ethnicities, ages, etc., is stronger, more inclusive, and better able to withstand economic turbulence.

Turning NIMBYism Into YIMBYism

Achievable housing benefits the entire community:

  • With careful planning and conscientious housing policies, a greater variety of housing types are built. This includes single-family homes on smaller lots to boost density (which is another benefit for communities), townhomes, multifamily housing (e.g. duplexes), etc. This ensures there is adequate supply and that there are choices that suit a variety of people, from young families to single professionals to retirees.
  • Achievable housing does not mean lower quality housing. In fact, when there is a smaller number of very well-designed options, the building process is much more streamlined and efficient. There are fewer errors and delays – but ample opportunity to meet the needs of diverse segments. This also helps push the price down for achievable housing.
  • It creates a second line of business for builders. They can offer value-based housing that has a lower margin but faster turnaround times.
  • The character of the community develops and becomes more dynamic and diverse. This may be a “soft” benefit that is difficult to quantify, but it adds significantly to the quality of life. And don’t we all want to live in vibrant, thriving neighborhoods?

“It’s important to builders that we provide people with a place they can call home,” said Mark Gradison with Gradison Land Development. “Different people of different economic backgrounds all deserve a place they can call their own. By supporting housing growth and development, you help future neighbors put down roots and help the community advance.”

With education and information, NIMBYism turns into YIMBYism – yes in my backyard! The advantages of achievable housing extend to thousands of Hoosiers who will no longer be priced out of the market. But it goes even further: it touches each and every one of their fellow community members.

Fight fear with facts – and fight Indiana’s housing challenges with thoughtful, strategic, balanced, and equitable policies. Connect with us to learn how.

Government Regulations: An Often Insurmountable Barrier to Homeownership

According to data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), government regulations at all levels (e.g. federal, state, municipal) make up 24.3% of the final price of newly constructed single-family homes. The bulk of this (14.6% of the final price) results from regulations relating to the lot’s development, while the rest (9.7% of the final price) results from costs taken on by the builder after the lot has been purchased.

How much of a lot’s price is due to government regulations? An astonishing 54.7%. Let’s see how these costs break down:

The “pure” cost of delay is the estimated cost of delays as a result of regulations, such as waiting for approvals and complying with various development regulations. As you can see, this accounts for an average of 5.1% of the finished lot price, while it accounts for 1.4% of the costs paid by the future homeowner.

Other regulatory costs include: applying for zoning and subdivision approval; costs incurred after approval and before construction; value of the left unbuilt; and the impact of changes in development standards, according to the NAHB. As you can see, this makes up nearly 55% of the final price on the development side, and 14.6% of the cost on the buyer side.

It’s not over yet. There are also onerous regulations during the construction phase:

There is no doubt that a level of government regulation in housing is not only appropriate, but beneficial for individuals and communities. However, too often, policies are not balanced or forward-thinking in terms of accessibility and diversity in the market; despite whatever intention they may have started with, the bottom line is that they are pricing hard-working Hoosiers out of homeownership. The cost of government regulations in new home prices is rising twice as fast as the average person/family’s ability to pay.

Diversity Matters In Housing

The average cost of a new home in Indiana is $354,164; 62% of Hoosiers earn less than the median household income of $58,000. “Affordable” at this range is $150,000: a majority of the population is being priced out of the market, and extraneous government regulations create an insurmountable barrier to the already challenging goal of homeownership.

Without these barriers, families and communities would thrive. Fair and accessible housing policies:

  • Promote diversity in the housing market, opening it to the average Hoosier. Working families who are priced out of buying a new home, preventing them from establishing community roots, empty nesters on fixed incomes and millennials working from home or wanting short commutes who all want appropriately sized, low maintenance homes in desirable, highly amenitized communities.
  • Not only do equitable policies build diversity into the buying population, they build diversity into the types of homes available. Rather than a focus on outsized single-family homes, we can take advantage of the opportunity to increase urban density with mixed-used units, duplexes, town homes, smaller lots, etc.
    Diversity in the housing market and stock creates more resilient communities that are better able to withstand economic pressures.
  • Neighborhoods are allowed to form and sustain unique identities, making them attractive to buyers.
    Achievable housing builds strong ties to communities, and people reinvest in their own neighborhoods.

Indiana doesn’t benefit from restrictive and inequitable housing policies and burdensome government fees. We benefit from balanced approaches that allow folks to put down roots and build strong communities.

Hoosiers benefit from balanced approaches that allow folks to put down roots and build strong communities.

Join the Coalition

Build Indiana Roots is committed to raising awareness of these issues, educating people on achievable housing, and advocating responsible housing policies that benefit all of us. Join the coalition at; help make the dream of homeownership a reality for more Hoosiers.