GUEST POST: I’m a student - and a YIMBY. Are you?

Jack Swan (@EofEYIMBY) has been volunteering at UK YIMBY over the summer and, before going back to university, has kindly written about his experience of the planning process and why he is a YIMBY:

It’s not a surprise that many younger people choose not to get involved in the planning process. After all, council planning webpages are more featureless than the most minimalist Instagram pages, and harder to understand than the most surreal of memes.

The majority of people who do endure this system - and, thus, make their voices heard - are aged over 55. The trouble here is that this age range is typically the most resistant to new homes. The result: they dominate discussion around planning proposals with hostile criticisms, so the country is not building the homes the younger generation desperately needs.

You may have heard of NIMBYs – those who say they understand more homes need to be  built but, of course, “Not In My Back Yard!”. YIMBYs are the opposite of that. They are people who are willing to say “Yes In My Back Yard” campaigning for the right kind of homes to be built in their local areas. It’s a movement that started in the United States, but now more and more people in the UK call themselves YIMBYs - myself, a student, included.

As a YIMBY, I recognise the fact that there aren’t enough homes in the UK. I know that I won’t be able to afford a home until I’m well into my thirties, maybe even older. I know a lot of my friends, less hopeful, are resigned to renting forever.

So I stand for supporting new homes being built in the UK. I stand for working in partnership with the right developers (more on that below) to get the right homes and the right services built in our towns and cities.

It means that, after I graduate, I’ll have somewhere I can throw down roots - whether that’s back in my hometown in Essex, where I’m studying in Manchester, or somewhere else entirely. But I’ll be able to own those roots, and not pay through the nose for them.

Like me, most of you reading this aspire to owning a new home in the near future. And I’m sure you’re just as worried as I am that you’ll have a hard time putting that deposit down on a house. You might even feel a bit of resentment that it used to be so easy – between 1996 and 2016 house prices rose on average 281% across the country, and 501% in London. The average deposit for a first-time house is 17%, up from 5% from when my parents were buying a house. You don’t have to study economics to know how supply and demand work: when you increase supply, prices go down (or at least don’t rise as maddeningly fast as they have), giving you and me a chance to get on the housing ladder before we start going grey.

It’s a cause that some students are already fighting for, such as members of the University of Surrey Students’ Union. They’ve done excellent work, not only documenting the unaffordability of housing for both student renters and graduates looking to settle in Guildford, but also in bridging the gap with their local community to find solutions to this. They are student YIMBYs.

But the best home for pro-housing students - from all universities and colleges, or those who aren’t in education - is the UK YIMBY network, of which I am a proud member. We promote housebuilding projects in local areas. We aren’t welcoming in just any luxury developer; we work with ones pledging a good amount of affordable housing, and who are showing a commitment to providing community benefits to the local area.

As a member, I get advice and information on how to make sense of the jargon-crammed world of planning and understand the basics: how many homes are going to get built near to me, and how to get involved in the process. That might involve writing an online comment on a planning site - and I know from far too many hours spent on Facebook I can do that. It might involve turning up in person to a consultation event - and if I can turn up and ask some questions at a seminar (hungover or otherwise), then I can do that too. But best of all, I can do it as part of a group of like-minded people - some my age, some not - who agree that we need new homes.

We aren’t looking to silence NIMBYs. They have good points, and they’re just as much a member of the community as we are - whether we’re looking to make our university town our home, or if we want to set up near to our parents, or if we’re chasing a job in a new city. But the problem is, NIMBYs dominate the conversation - and too often that leads to housing plans either stalled, downsized (and losing community benefits in the process), or not happening entirely. Which locks us out of the homeownership we all aspire to. All we want, as YIMBYs, is to balance out the debate - and find somewhere we can call home.

It doesn’t matter where you go to uni or what you study - we’re all looking to find a plot of land we can call ours. We know that, for our generation, that’s going to be a harder task than normal. But being YIMBYs offers us a solution.

Jack Swan, University of Manchester Undergraduate

The University of Surrey Students Union representatives reaching out to local community to discuss housing issues

The University of Surrey Students Union representatives reaching out to local community to discuss housing issues


Sorry that you haven’t heard from us in a while. We’re back again now (after over a year) and whilst we’ve been away it’s great to see that the YIMBY movement is growing stronger and stronger in the UK. So much so that we’re going to throw a party on Thursday 6th September 2018!
Thanks to the wonderful work from London Yimby the concept of supporting local housing has even reached the mainstream media with influential national politicians such as Liz Truss (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) supporting the cause. The housing shortage is quite rightly being recognised as “the greatest challenge facing Britain”, but who would have thought that even Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg would be supportive of some building in the (less attractive areas) of the Green Belt to help solve it?!

Even Jacob Rees-Mogg now wants to see more house building...

Even Jacob Rees-Mogg now wants to see more house building...

The traditional NIMBY attitude is turning. The YIMBYs are rising up and recognising the opportunities that supporting housebuilding in local areas will bring. An increasing number of younger people are wanting to make their voices heard so that they stand a chance of owning a home in the future. People like Jack, an undergraduate who has been interning with UK YIMBY, and wants to help others like him take action – you’ll hear more from him soon!
We’ve been hearing from people across the whole of the UK who have signed up as supporters through our website and we’ve been helping them to support housebuilding projects in the areas where they live. Some have even set up YIMBY twitter feeds to create an online community supporting new homes in their areas – if there isn’t one where you are, we can help you set one up yourself so that you’re not on your own!
As the number of YIMBYs and YIMBY groups grows, it’s important to be coordinated and learn from each other on successfully supporting more homes. It’s also important to have fun while we campaign on this important issue. Why not come along to our inaugural meet up in Bermondsey, London to meet similar-minded folk? Hope to see you there!

Will Northern Ireland political impasse stall the burgeoning house building sector?

The Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, said this week that there is a “21-day window” after next Thursday’s General Election to restore devolution to Stormont. Since the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed earlier this year (following the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal), there has been uncertainty over the budget and programme for public spending but how will this affect the rate of future house building?