It’s too easy to label North Saanich voters as “anti-housing” or “anti-development”. Yes, of course there are some residents in every municipality who are opposed to changes in their neighbourhood. The term NIMBY (not in my backyard) was coined to describe folks who move into a neighbourhood and then want to “pull up the drawbridge” and prevent others from moving in.
While working in community planning I learned to listen carefully when people were opposed to new development. I wanted to understand their reasons, and differentiate between those who were NIMBYs and those who had legitimate concerns with what was being proposed.
In listening to many of my friends and neighbours during the recent election, I didn’t hear many NIMBYs. Most expressed empathy with people struggling to afford decent housing, in fact, they usually knew people in that situation. But at the same time, they didn’t believe that the housing proposals being advanced, in areas with expensive land, little services and poor transit, could actually result in affordable housing.
They also understood that putting significantly more housing in rural areas, where the residents would, by necessity, be car-dependent, would make it more difficult to meet our climate goals. And many understood how rural sprawl hurts our ability to produce more food locally. In other words, they wanted good, effective planning. If that means focusing new housing in the region’s “urban containment area”, where land prices and servicing make it possible to build reasonably affordable housing, then so be it. They may be accused of being NIMBYs, but only by people who simply want to toss around labels. I guess “pro-good planning” isn’t sexy!