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Placer County Overcomes NIMBY Opposition to Lower Cost Housing

Placer County, CA, USA

At a Glance

Like other counties, Placer County faced a housing shortage due to longstanding NIMBY opposition at meetings and online. Armed with real data showing that NIMBY sentiment was not representative of the community, the county finally overcame the opposition and passed the first housing plan in 30 years.

Problem Addressed

Placer County hoped to address a housing shortage that was impacting the local economy and making it hard for people to buy homes. Past plans to build smaller and cheaper housing had been strongly opposed by outspoken NIMBY opposition. The county hoped for support but the people who self-selected themselves to participate in public meetings and unscientific surveys created the impression that an anti-housing sentiment was representative of the overall community.

Instead of doing more meetings and online forums and hearing from the same organized voices, the county needed to collect public input in a way that represented the public. They hoped that they would find the broad community support needed to pass a housing plan and pave the way for improvements in the overall housing supply.

Placer County used/is using FlashVote scientific surveys to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

County elected officials regularly heard and saw the input from NIMBY opposition so they naturally assumed that was what the whole community thought. But data from a series of quick scientific surveys created by FlashVote surprised them by proving this was wrong.

Public support for statements like “Placer County should remove barriers to building smaller and less expensive housing units” was 3 to 1. The community supported the idea that “The range of housing costs in Placer County should match the range of people’s incomes” by 4 to 1.

The dominant noise from the opposition was not representative at all. The community overwhelmingly supported building smaller and cheaper housing.

FlashVote’s data filters also allowed the county to view responses by owner/renter, age, gender, and resident/non-resident. With these features, the surveys provide the full decision support to understand the problem and what to do about it. The data enabled the county to create a housing plan that solved real problems with the confidence that it had the support of its constituents.

Shawna Purvines, Placer County’s Principal Planner in charge of the project spoke to the success of this project by saying, “It’s been a really great experience working with FlashVote.”


  1. The county overcame noisy NIMBY sentiment with good data showing widespread community support for the housing plan
  2. Placer County successfully passed its first housing plan in 30 years
  3. Survey data was available in 48 hours, allowing for a sequence of surveys and rapid incorporation of the insights
  4. The county received thousands of scientifically sampled responses to the surveys that provided a true countywide perspective on fixing the county’s housing supply problem
  5. Later surveys helped Placer County refine the housing strategy and update the housing element in the General Plan

Lessons Learned

  1. Don’t assume the loudest or most common input is representative. Statistically valid community input is the only way to truly know what the community wants and thinks.
  2. Regular people will support doing the right thing. Residents in the highest-priced areas supported the new housing plan, even when they stood to benefit most from a limited housing supply.

Something Unique

This project was nationally recognized by the Alliance for Innovation for their 2019 TLG Innovation Showcase.

Who Should Consider?

Any county, city, or town looking to get true and reliable community input that can inform decision-making processes.

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