The unfortunate rise of YIMBYism

the unfortunate rise of yimbyism

Britain currently faces multiple crises in housing, energy, transport, the cost of living and healthcare – as well as the global threat of climate change. The scale of the challenge facing the next government is immense, investment in British infrastructure will need to increase drastically in the coming years to get this country back on its feet again.

Unfortunately the pressing need for action has driven mainstream politicians, especially in the Labour Party, into a dangerous and incurious mindset that can be summed up quite simply as: Build first, ask questions later.

They’ve even created an informal coalition of campaigners proudly wearing a new label: YIMBY. “Yes in my back yard, to anything, no questions asked,” while those who do ask important questions and oppose harmful developments are attacked as busybodies who want the UK to fail, rather than sensible voices ensuring Britain’s progress is safe and fair.

There’s an understandable sense of urgency behind YIMBY thinking. We don’t have much time to fix the UK’s crumbling infrastructure and broken economy – it’s making people miserable right now. So when a new property development, road or power station is proposed it’s only natural that there will be a clamour of supportive voices.

But we also know that a rush to support solutions without due care and attention creates the disasters of the future. Developers in the past were allowed, even encouraged, to use dangerous materials like asbestos, porous concrete and flammable cladding in thousands of buildings. People who raised concerns were dismissed then as they are dismissed now.

The Green Party, who launched their manifesto for the local elections last week, are often on the receiving end of criticism for asking inconvenient but important questions.

Their plans to ease the housing crisis by building 150,000 new council homes, bringing unused properties into residential use and introducing rent controls have been attacked by YIMBYs in lockstep with property developers and private landlords. Those who derive their wealth from property are more than happy to build unaffordable, low quality new homes in the wrong places as long as it means they can boost their profits.

Where the Green Party promises to exercise caution and pursue higher standards for future homes, the YIMBYs are desperate to write a blank cheque for the profiteers in the name of solving the housing crisis. Their folly now will simply create more crises in future.

The Greens recognise, rightly, that new homes must be built to tackle the housing crisis. But they must not be new homes at any cost to the environment. New homes whose tenants will be unhappy, unhealthy or charged extortionate rents.

Any credible plan to tackle the housing crisis must involve building new social housing, homes people can actually afford to buy, and the surrounding infrastructure to support new homeowners and tenants. New homes must be built not only with the housing crisis in mind – but also with an eye on climate change and biodiversity loss.

Long may there continue to be sensible voices in the room asking the right questions at the right time. We’ll be thanking them in future for making sure that the solutions to one crisis didn’t create more problems for our children & grandchildren.

Daniel Johnston Menezes

Game developer, font designer and founder of, involved in green activism for over a decade.

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