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Boston-area NIMBYs dominate meetings about new development: Analysis

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Boston University study of meetings in 97 towns might confirm what some already suspected

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People who oppose building more multifamily housing in the Boston region tend to show up and speak at community meetings regarding new development more than proponents. That is according to a new study from Boston University’s Initiative on Cities.

The study tracked data on 2,800 participants at planning and zoning meetings in 97 municipalities in the Boston region from 2015 to 2017. Researchers were able to do so because most area towns and cities require that meeting minutes include the names and addresses of all members of the public who speak.

The big takeaway from the study? “Participants were much more likely to oppose new development,” according to academic and editor Richard Florida. “Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of all comments were in opposition to proposed housing projects, compared to just 15 percent in support and 23 percent that were neutral.”

The BU study noted that such a pattern strongly suggested that the community meetings incentivized attendance by opponents of multifamily housing much more than proponents.

So those opponents—most of whom tend to be older and more affluent, according to the study—turn out and turn up the rhetoric, leading to policies and decisions that obstruct apartment projects in a region that desperately needs new housing.

The study’s conclusions probably do not surprise some hereabouts who have long lamented the influence of the Not In My Backyard set (a.k.a. NIMBYs). What’d you think?