The Team Sherwood is devoted to revealing to writing about what is happening in the Canadian real estate market. We provide some insight into what is driving change in the real estate industry.

Our focus could easily be described as taking a YIMBY viewpoint on projects instead of the usual NIMBY views that are often reported in the media.

NIMBY stands for “not in my back yard,” and every once in a while, NIMBY viewpoints are directed against a project that’s literally going to behind someone’s back yard—like those new condo projects appearing throughout the city. Much more often, however, the “BY” in NIMBY is metaphorical. The people who take part in NIMBY protest are usually objecting to something that will happen close by them, in a wider area of their day-to-day life that constitutes their “back yard.”
urban Toronto building in Toronto

How do we define the geographical boundaries of the area that someone cares about? In other words, how do we know what neighbourhood in a city makes up someone’s “back yard”? Often you will see the headline—“local opposition which rises up to protest neighborhood change”. But what defines a local neighborhood when the city is under so much pressure to expand?

The question is important to consider when you try to balance two competing principles in managing how local community groups, communities, and larger urban areas undergo physical and social change. On the one hand, from both an ethical and a political standpoint, the people who are most affected by a change are the ones who should have the most say in determining whether and how that change takes place. Geographically speaking, people who are most affected by something are the ones who are closest to it. Unfortunately, this principle of community self-determination limits growth when one group has a more powerful voice in the community.

On the other hand, sometimes achieving just and equitable goals for a larger community may require overruling the objections of a smaller, but more vocally organized, constituent community. To take one pointed example, a metropolitan region ought to have affordable housing for needy families that is both plentiful and evenly distributed throughout different neighborhoods. But privileged communities often use concerns about traffic, environmental protection, and pressure on local schools to keep low-income housing out of their neighborhoods.

We have seen this in downtown Toronto with the development of the bubble over the field at Central Tech High School. Some well connected local residents protested the heritage value of the school as a reason to stop the development of the dome that the school board wanted so they could use the field throughout the year and redevelop the site without to much cost.

The YIMBY voices were finally heard when local residents found out that the project was about to fail. The community finally agreed on a solution although the plans for the dome were changed to meet some of the NIMBY concerns.

Another example is the request for a property owner to open a daycare in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood of Toronto. While many local residents with young children supported the developed the well connected NIMBY crowd was able to derail the property owners project mostly over the concern about traffic in the neighbourhood. Where outside political connections used in both cases?

The trick, then, is to figure out how to weigh the geographic limits of representation and decision making so that they appropriately and fairly address with the geographic area of both the advantages and the concerns that are associated with any kind of change. For at least two centuries, urban and regional growth and interdependence has outpaced the ability of political jurisdictions to keep pace with the increasing complexity and scale of modern life.

Some urban projects are needed and everyone agrees that projects must proceed. The redevelopment of the Foundry Loft buildings in Toronto is a good example. These old industrial buildings were falling apart but they retained heritage value. The city, the builder and local residents worked together addressing various concerns and one of the two old industrial building was converted into residential condos.

This building is just one example of how NIMBY and YIMBY groups can work together to develop housing in Toronto.