No NIMBY? For Affordable Housing, There Doesn’t Go the Neighborhood


NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. From drug treatment centers to houses of worship to Wal-Marts, NIMBY is a frequent rallying cry for people who don’t want their neighborhoods to change.

But when it comes to affordable housing, the NIMBY argument might not hold. A new report from Trulia, San Francisco, suggests that in the nation’s 20 least affordable housing markets, low-income housing built during a 10-year span shows no effect on nearby home values.

In a blog, There Doesn’t Go the Neighborhood: Low-Income Housing Has No Impact on Nearby Home Values (, Trulia Senior Economist Cheryl Young said an analysis of 3,083 low-income housing projects from 1996 to 2006 found no significant effect on home values located near a low-income housing project, with a few exceptions.

The bottom line for NIMBYs: their fear that property values will take a hit when a low-income housing project locates nearby are largely unfounded–at least in cities where housing is either expensive or in short supply,” Young said.

Young noted some of the nation’s least affordable markets are also ground zero for the fight against building affordable housing–which opponents say, among other things, depreciates nearby home values. Resistance to affordable housing development has surfaced in tight housing markets across the country such as San Francisco, New York and Seattle.

The Trulia analysis of cities showed San Jose, Calif., was the most aggressive in adding low-income housing units (7.81 per 1,000 people) during the decade. Meanwhile, Oakland (0.52 per 1,000 people) added the fewest units per capita. Of the 20 markets examined, Denver was the only metro area where homes located near low-income housing projects registered a positive effect in terms of price per square foot after a project was completed.

In Boston and Cambridge, Mass., however, low-income housing projects had a negative effect on nearby homes in terms of price per square foot, suggesting a region-specific market effect for these two geographically adjacent metros.

To test for spillover effects of low-income housing, Trulia tracked home values in terms of price per square foot at two different distances from the low-income housing project from 1996 to 2006. For the neighborhood, Trulia identified properties within an inner ring of 2,000 feet of a given low-income housing project as close enough to be impacted by the project. Properties located 2,001 to 4,000 feet from the low-income housing project were used as a comparison group.

The analysis found no statistically significant difference in price per square foot when comparing properties near a low-income housing project and those farther away when examining projects across all 20 metros. Likewise, at the metro level, the majority of markets yield no significant difference in prices between the inner and outer ring after a project is completed. However, a few housing markets revealed significant differences in price per square foot near low-income housing projects after they were placed into service.