Building industry talks intensification, NIMBY in The 6

In a city like Toronto, where land is in high demand and the population is growing by leaps and bounds, it’s not surprising that a tug of war is taking place between the city’s established residents and the building industry.

NIMBY – not in my back yard – is that opposition to development, in a nutshell. It’s typically seen in existing residential neighbourhoods.

There’s no denying that new housing, services and retail are needed to accommodate Toronto’s growing population, which swells by about 100,000 every year. But in a dense city like the Six, it’s safe to say that every neighbourhood is someone’s back yard. So, if not in your back yard, then who’s?

We chatted with Toronto’s development industry on the good, the bad and the ugly side of NIMBYism.

YP NextHome: What’s the biggest problem with the NIMBYism?

Michoel Klugmann, vice-president of Lindvest: The “M” in NIMBY! People often would objectively support a reasoned and responsible development application if it were anywhere on Earth other than their backyard. Almost every argument against intensification begins with the statement, “I personally favour growth, but not in this case…” People are uncomfortable saying they are against intensification or even a particular development project, because on the whole, who wants to impede progress? They are just opposed to it happening near them. If we could all manage to look at the whole GTA as our back yard, then the conversation would be more productive and fair.

Zev Mandelbaum, COO of Marlin Spring: The problem with a NIMBY mentality is that it reflects a small mind. It constricts the growth of our communities and our cities. For cities to flourish, both economically and aesthetically, redevelopment is a necessity. More often than not, development brings prosperity into communities. It increases real estate prices and allows local businesses to flourish.

Michelle Noble, vice-president of Communications, Marketing and Media Relations at the Building Industry and Land Development Association: The larger societal or public good pays the price for local or individual interests/gains. Most people don’t like change and it is easy to say “no” and to oppose any and all change. However, there are many positives that come with development that everyone can benefit from. It is important that we do a better job of communicating the benefits of development to people in existing communities.

YP NextHome: Why are some Torontonians so “anti-intensification”?

Michoel Klugmann: People are comfortable with what they know and are used to. Intensification necessarily brings change and change can be discomforting. We live in a rapidly changing technologically advanced world with amazing growth spurts that affect even the most basic of human functions. For example, the ways we gather information, congregate, communicate, travel, reside, play and work are monumentally different from what they were just a decade ago. The way our cities function and grow must adapt to suit. We should welcome change. When we do so it allows us to shape the future and our communities.

Zev Mandelbaum: The concept of intensification carries a scary connotation, as for many it implies that change is on the horizon. Change can be scary. The fear that increased traffic, congested retail, the infringement of privacy from shadowing, and disturbances from loading will ruin the quality of life and the value of their real estate.

Michelle Noble: Not-in-my-backyard sentiments are not new, but today they are more prevalent, because Toronto and the rest of the GTA are intensifying due to the provincial government’s growth policy which mandates that 40 percent of all development happen within existing communities. Many communities across the GTA are changing. They are intensifying as more development happens within them as the region grows up and not out.

There is a disconnect between the public policy and public perception. Many people are not aware of or don’t understand intensification policy. Also, many people in existing communities like their neighbourhoods the way they are and they don’t want change.

YP NextHome: What are the implications if the NIMBYists win?

Michoel Klugmann: Cities that don’t adapt pay the price. We need varied forms of housing and more of it. Suppressed supply is the single biggest factor that is causing prices to increase in our city. The GTA is a great place to be and it has the right spirit to address growth issues. Let’s come together to make it even better.

Zev Mandelbaum: Generally speaking the implications when a developer loses to the NIMBY associations, there is often much compromise that leads to less aesthetically pleasing building and degrades the quality of the neighborhood opposed to improving it.

Michelle Noble: When the NIMBYists win, everyone loses. It is problematic for all of us, especially new home buyers and people looking for housing. We already have a housing supply shortage in the GTA, and our population continues to grow because we are a fast growing region. We need development so people have places to live and work.


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