'Yes in My Backyard': Can a New Pro-Housing Movement Overcome the Power of NIMBYs?
Zoning & Planning Law Report, Forthcoming
16 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 13, 2017
For years local politics across the country have been dominated by homeowners who strongly oppose the construction of any new development – especially housing – in their communities. The success of these homeowners, often derisively called NIMBYs (“Not in my Backyard”) can be measured in skyrocketing housing costs, a sluggish economy, and widening inequality. In the last few years, a new grassroots movement has begun to emerge and, adopting the moniker YIMBY (“Yes in My Backyard”), has taken aim squarely at the NIMBY problem. As housing costs have risen to shocking levels in prosperous cities like Boston, Portland and San Francisco, residents in these and many other cities have formed organizations devoted to advocating at both the local and state level for policies that facilitate the construction of more housing. In a short time, YIMBY has had remarkable success, helping push an important package of housing bills through the California legislature in 2017, among many other achievements. YIMBY’s meteoric rise poses the question of whether it can sustain its success where other movements to combat NIMBYism have failed. NIMBYism is a powerful force because both state and local governments are structured to favor the interests of slow-growth homeowners over advocates for new housing. In this paper, I sketch some of the challenges YIMBYs are facing as they confront NIMBYism, and what strategies may be successful in overcoming those challenges.
Keywords: NIMBY, YIMBY, Zoning, Housing Crisis, SB 35, Homevoter, CEQA
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