BAM Key Details:

  • A new Redfin survey shows more than three-quarters of respondents (78%) support policies that promote new construction, but only about a third of those (32%) would feel positive about having a large apartment complex built in their neighborhood. 
  • Most Democrats and Republicans favor pro-building policies—but not necessarily in their own neighborhoods. YIMBYs and NIMBYs are on both sides of the aisle. 
  • Renters are also more supportive of pro-building policies than homeowners and are more likely to feel positive about apartment complexes added to their neighborhoods. 

Almost four out of five respondents (78%) to a Redfin survey support policies that would promote new construction. But just under one-third of those (32%) would feel positive about a new apartment complex being added to their neighborhood. And one in five (20%) would feel negative. Nearly half of those respondents (48%) would feel neutral. 

Redfin-One-third-of-pro-building-ppl-support-new-apt-complex-nearby-chart

Source: Redfin

Qualtrics conducted the Redin-commissioned survey back in May and June of 2023, polling 5,079 U.S. residents who, at the time, had moved within the last 12 months, were planning to move in the next year, or were renting.  

After identifying those who supported pro-building policies, the survey asked the 78% two follow-up questions: 

  1. “How would you feel if a new large apartment complex were built in your neighborhood?”
  2. “How would you feel if that new large apartment complex in your neighborhood was specifically built for low-income housing?” 

To the first question, respondents could answer with “positive,” “neutral,” or “negative.” To the second, they could answer “more negative,” “more positive,” or “same as any other large apartment complex.”

Renters are more likely to support new construction—and new local apartments

Here’s what happens if we break down the survey responses by homeowners versus renters:

  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of homeowners support pro-building policies—compared to 80% of renters. 
  • One-quarter (25%) of homeowners would feel positive about a new apartment complex added to their neighborhood, which is comparable to the 28% of renters who gave the same response. 
  • Two in five (40%) homeowners would feel negative about a new apartment complex in their neighborhood, while a little more than one-third (35%) would feel neutral. 
  • By contrast, just under one-quarter (24%) of renters would feel negative about a new apartment complex built nearby, and almost half (49%) would feel neutral. 

As of 2021, the U.S. had an estimated shortfall of 3.8 million housing units. Both buying and renting a home costs more in 2023 than it ever has. Home prices keep rising despite elevated mortgage rates and cooler buyer demand because housing supply is still too low. 

Building more homes would help narrow the gap between supply and demand since the majority of homeowners who might otherwise sell are locked into lower mortgage rates. 

Policies that promote new construction include— 

  • Loosening zoning restrictions
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs)
  • Providing tax incentives to encourage developers to build

Personal preferences for things like a quiet neighborhood or old-fashioned charm are often at odds with building new housing. Even though so many Americans believe in building new dense housing in theory, that ideology isn’t strong enough to outweigh their own desires–especially when they don’t stand to directly benefit from the building. That’s why it’s so difficult to overcome community opposition to dense new housing, even during a time when so many Americans believe in the Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) movement

Daryl Fairweather

Redfin Chief Economist

Democrats and Republicans: YIMBYs and NIMBYs on both sides

Up until now, we’ve only covered responses to the first of the two follow-up questions listed above. It makes sense, after all, that renters would be more supportive of a new apartment complex in their neighborhood. And more renters than buyers would likely feel more positive if that apartment complex was specifically for low-income renters. 

When we break down the survey responses by political affiliation, the majority of both Republicans and Democrats favor policies that promote new construction: 

  • 75% of Republicans
  • 80% of Democrats

But only a minority of respondents on both sides of the aisle would feel positive about the addition of a new apartment complex to their neighborhood:

  • 24% of Republicans
  • 34% of Democrats

More Republican than Democrat respondents would feel negative about a large apartment complex built in their neighborhood:

  • 37% of Republicans
  • 23% of Democrats

Roughly two in five on both sides would feel neutral:

  • 40% of Republicans
  • 43% of Democrats

As for pro-building respondents who did not identify themselves with either political party, we don’t know how they responded to either follow-up question. 

It’s worth noting here, that while Republicans in this survey were more likely than Democrats to feel negatively about a new apartment complex built in their neighborhood, the South—a region composed largely of Republican-leaning states—is building far more single-family homes than any other region. 

In August 2023, Southern states issued 576,000 single-family building permits—more than twice the number of any other region and up 10% from a year ago. Compare that to 4% year-over-year increases in the West and Midwest and a 5% annual decline in the Northeast.

Redfin-Democrats-and-Republicans-NIMBYs-and-YIMBYs-chart

Source: Redfin

There are YIMBYs and NIMBYs on both sides of the aisle. That’s part of the reason it’s so difficult to push through policies that promote dense housing. But all types of buildings ultimately help with housing supply and affordability, even building more single-family homes. The more homes that exist, the more likely it is a person can find one to fit their needs and their budget. So even though Republicans are more likely to oppose dense housing, the South is doing more than other regions to create more housing and help with affordability. Looking forward, governments in some red and blue states are prioritizing affordable housing. In Montana, for instance, a wave of bipartisan legislation to reform zoning is making its way through the government, and California lawmakers have eliminated barriers to building ADUs.

Daryl Fairweather

Redfin Chief Economist

As for the second follow-up question, respondents identifying as Democrats are almost twice as likely as Republicans to feel “more positive” if the large apartment complex built in their neighborhood was for low-income renters. 

  • 34% of Democrats 
  • 19% of Republicans

About half of both Republicans and Democrats would feel the same about the apartment complex, regardless of its target demographic. 

Read the full report for more details. 

Takeaways for real estate agents

Whatever your political leanings—or those of your clients—we can all agree that the lack of housing supply is a problem. Most people on both sides of the aisle would rather see an increase in the supply of single-family homes for sale than an increase in rentals. 

And since we’d rather see more people become homeowners, we’re all for that, too. 

On the other hand, many newcomers to an area are finding they need to rent first, thanks to a widespread shortage of homes for sale. And having an affordable apartment in the area you want to live beats living in your car. 

Keep an open mind toward renters moving to your area in search of a home. Buying may not be their immediate goal. Give them a reason to think of you when they’re ready.