The "Yes In My Backyard" movement –also known as YIMBY–is gaining momentum, with growing recognition that the current housing crisis is largely a matter of supply and demand.
At its core, the YIMBY movement believes that increasing the number of homes is the answer to the housing shortage in the U.S. This shortage has led to escalating housing prices, making it harder for many to afford a home. A large section of the population now finds it challenging to find affordable housing in their localities, and homelessness rates are climbing.
YIMBY versus NIMBY
While the concept of YIMBY isn't novel, its increasing victories highlight its growing acceptance in mainstream dialogue. This shift comes as the adverse impacts of the dominant "Not In My Backyard" or NIMBY mentality, which historically opposed most housing development projects, become more evident.
The Role of Zoning Laws
The modern YIMBY movement's birth can be traced back to California, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, which has for years grappled with a severe housing affordability crisis exacerbated by the tech boom and restrictive zoning laws.
Zoning laws, which determine the types of structures allowed in certain areas, have played a significant role in the housing crisis. Presently, around 75% of residentially-zoned land in the U.S. is limited to single-family housing. This not only restricts housing density but has historically contributed to racial and socioeconomic segregation.
To tackle this, YIMBY activists have targeted these zoning laws, aiming to introduce reforms that permit higher density housing.
Broad Appeal Across Political Lines
Surprisingly, the YIMBY movement has found supporters across the political spectrum. While progressives see housing abundance as a means to boost affordability, conservatives and libertarians view it as a method to reduce government interference.
Regardless of the differences in approach, the end goal is universally accepted: create more housing.
Expanding Beyond California
The success of the YIMBY movement in California has sparked interest in other states, leading to similar initiatives nationwide. Minneapolis banned single-family zoning in 2018, followed by Oregon. Cities like Austin and Seattle are also introducing measures to increase housing density.
However, the movement's expansion hasn't been without challenges. While some cities have successfully adopted pro-housing policies, others, like Minneapolis, have struggled with the specifics of implementation.
Despite the challenges, the YIMBY movement's rise is a positive sign for the future of housing in the U.S. By successfully advocating for housing abundance, the movement has the potential to make American cities and suburbs more inclusive, diverse, and affordable.