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YIMBY also Yimby or yimby

noun [countable] informal

yes in my back yard: used to describe a person who supports a plan to build something near to where they live


noun [uncountable] informal

'Meet the YIMBYs … accused of greed by neighbours for selling gardens to developers for £2.5m.'

Daily Mail 14th April 2009

'… it's actually YIMBYism. Yes, we want this furniture manufacturer in our backyard, and we will support them 100 per cent as they become more environmentally responsible in their manufacturing practices …'

Inside Toronto 9th October 2009

Whether it's a housing development, mobile phone mast or children's playground, we're all familiar with the concept of residents in a particular area opposing a building project. They might want to preserve the countryside, protect the air quality, prevent an influx of people, or think that the planned construction is just plain ugly – whatever their reasons, they don't want 'that' near them. Less often, however, do we consider the flip side, the person who actually supports a development because for a variety of reasons they feel it could be beneficial to the surrounding community. If the former are the NIMBYs (or nimbys), the latter are the YIMBYs.

YIMBYs are also sometimes ecologically-motivated, supporting the installation of 'green' energy sources such as wind turbines

YIMBY stands for yes in my back yard, and serves as a lesser-known antonym of NIMBY, the tongue-in-cheek acronym of not in my back yard, often used to refer to people who oppose building projects. Following the lexical pattern of NIMBY before it, the state of supporting a building project is referred to as YIMBYism, and advocates themselves are sometimes alternatively described as YIMBYists.

In some American states and certain parts of Europe, particularly Scandinavia, YIMBYism grew out of a desire to give community support for affordable housing in areas where property is so expensive that people are being forced to move elsewhere or live in cramped or unsuitable conditions. YIMBYs are also sometimes ecologically-motivated, supporting the installation of 'green' energy sources such as wind turbines. They therefore often stand in direct opposition to the typical activities of NIMBYs who, whilst possibly favouring greener energy, are less prepared for it to impact on their surrounding environment.

The YIMBY is consequently considered a positive antidote to the NIMBY, a counterargument to the widely-encountered philosophy that development and new technology are fine as long as they don't directly affect our personal space. However, as illustrated in the article featuring the first citation above, YIMBYism can also sometimes be associated with more mercenary attitudes, such as selling land to prospective developers at over-inflated prices.

Background – from NIMBY to YIMBY

The term YIMBY first emerged in the late eighties, following the pattern of the more pejorative NIMBY, which appeared some years earlier. NIMBY was coined in 1980 by the late Nicholas Ridley, a British Conservative politician who was then Secretary of State for the Environment.

NIMBY is just one of a number of acronyms used pejoratively to describe opponents of building projects or infrastructure developments. Implicit in all these terms is the idea that such people have narrow, selfish views. Other examples are NIABY, an acronym of not in anyone's back yard, encompassing the idea that certain developments are inappropriate anywhere in the world (nuclear power plants for instance), and, BANANA, standing for build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything/anyone, which describes people standing in opposition to any kind of proposed development, whatever, or wherever, it is. Taking the concept one step further are CAVE people (CAVE standing for citizens against virtually everything), activists who oppose any kind of change within a community – which as well as building projects might include other kinds of public policy issues, such as local taxes, public transport routes, etc.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 2nd December 2009.

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