YIMBY is an acronym for "yes, in my back yard", a pro-development movement in contrast and opposition to the NIMBY ("not in my back yard") phenomenon. The YIMBY position supports increasing the supply of housing within cities where housing costs have escalated to unaffordable levels. YIMBYs often seek rezoning that would allow denser housing to be produced or the repurposing of obsolete buildings, such as malls, into housing. YIMBYs may also support public-interest projects like clean energy or alternative transport.
The YIMBY movement has supporters across the political spectrum including left-leaning adherents who believe housing production is a social justice issue and free-market libertarian proponents who think the supply of housing should not be regulated by the government. YIMBYs argue cities can be made increasingly affordable and accessible by building more infill housing,: and that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by denser cities.
A 1993 essay published in the Journal of the American Planning Association entitled "Planners' Alchemy, Transforming NIMBY to YIMBY: Rethinking NIMBY" used 'YIMBY' in general reference to development, not only housing development.
The pro-housing YIMBY position emerged in regions experiencing unaffordable housing prices. The Guardian said this movement began in the San Francisco bay area in the 2010s due to high housing costs created as a result of the local technology industry adding many more jobs to the region than the number of housing units constructed in the same time span.
Equity groups in California have frequently opposed the movement, pointing to its Silicon Valley funding and younger, whiter constituency. At the same time, affordable-housing developers and environmental groups have endorsed YIMBY policies, while suburban homeowners have opposed changes to single-family zoning.
YIMBYs advocate for market-rate housing and say this is essential for the viability of its development, which would create housing supply that would lower prices by satisfying demand. Those opposed say adding market-rate housing rather than subsidized and means-tested affordable housing in a high-demand region can worsen housing affordability for low and middle-income earners through the "sorting" process, whereby high-earning newcomers inhabit the newly built housing. YIMBYs say market-rate development (including luxury development) will eventually result in affordable housing since existing wealthy residents will occupy these new units by vacating less desirable housing in a process called "filtering."
YIMBYs say their anti-development counterparts obstruct development in defense of the status quo from which they alone benefit. Opponents have described YIMBY organizations as "self-interested political calculations" by special interests. YIMBYs and their opposition both cite concerns about the environment, quality of life, and social justice as motivating factors. Some journalists have said YIMBY and NIMBY positions are independent of the left–right political spectrum while scholars have called the NIMBY/YIMBY debate a false dichotomy.
Academic research has yielded some generalizable results on the effects of upzoning, the root causes of unaffordability, and the most efficacious policy prescriptions to help low-income workers in prosperous cities. However, scholars have said more research is necessary to determine the full effects of upzoning and market-rate housing development on affordability for all income levels in prosperous cities.
The California Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) reported that parts of California which built more housing saw slower growth in rents for poor households and that market-rate development is associated with a protective effect against displacement, whereas the presence of an inclusionary-zoning mandate is not.
Housing supply and prices
Upzoning (rezoning for more housing) may not generate immediate housing production and can worsen affordability: a study by Yonah Freemark published in Urban Affairs Review in 2019 found rezoning for denser development near transit stations in Chicago led to a speculative increase in property values and no additional development after a period of five years. In follow-up commentary, Freemark said that the results had been misinterpreted as proof that upzoning will always raise housing prices. He said the study could describe the effects of upzoning, not the effects of new construction enabled by upzoning, and that affordability requirements (inclusionary zoning) could be included with upzoning. Freemark also said the findings of his study, which only looked at Chicago, were not necessarily generalizable to other regions and concluded that his study neither proved nor disproved that increases in housing density improve affordability.
Another study published in Urban Studies in 2006 observed price trends within Canadian cities and noted very slow price drops for older housing over a period of decades; the author concluded that newly constructed housing would not become affordable in the near future, meaning that filtering was not a viable method for producing affordable housing, especially in the most expensive cities.
In a 2020 Urban Studies article, Michael Storper and Rodriguez-Pose argue "that there is no clear and uncontroversial evidence that housing regulation is a principal source of differences in home availability or prices across cities." The article was widely criticized by other scholars who say that Storper and Rodriguez-Pose set up a strawman (that upzoning will eradicate inequality on its own), and that the article "ignores much of the research on the topic, misstates or misunderstands the research it does cite, presents misleading and oversimplified analyses, and advances an argument that is internally inconsistent".
Research shows that strict land use regulations contribute to racial housing segregation in the United States. Surveys have shown that white communities are more likely to have strict land use regulations and whites are more likely to support those regulations.
A 2019 study by Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti in the American Economic Journal found that liberalization of land use regulations would lead to enormous productivity gains. The study estimated that strict land use regulations "lowered aggregate US growth by 36 percent from 1964 to 2009."
In Toronto, Canada, a self-styled YIMBY movement was established in 2006 by community members in response to significant development proposals in the West Queen West area, and a YIMBY festival, launched the same year, has been held annually since. The festival's organizer stated that "YIMBYism is a community mindset that's open to change and development."
Yimby is an independent political party network founded in Stockholm in 2007, which advocates physical development, densification and promotion of urban environment with chapters in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Uppsala. The group believes that the PBL (Plans and Constructions Act, from 1987) is a major impediment to any new construction, and should be eliminated or dramatically reformed.
London YIMBY was set up in 2016, publishing its first report with the Adam Smith Institute in 2017 which received national press coverage. Its members advocate a policy termed 'Better Streets'. This proposal would allow residents of individual streets to vote by a two-thirds majority to pick a design code and allow extensions or replacement buildings of up to five or six stories, allowing suburban homes to be gradually replaced by mansion blocks. This flagship policy has achieved a degree of recognition, being endorsed by former Liberal Democrat MP Sam Gyimah and the leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Other YIMBY groups have been set up in individual London boroughs and in cities suffering similar housing shortages, such as Brighton, Bristol and Edinburgh.
Members of the British YIMBY movement have been critical of established planning organisations such as the Town and Country Planning Association and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, accusing them of pursuing policies that worsen Britain's housing shortage.
Since 2014, in response to California's housing affordability crisis, several YIMBY groups were created in the San Francisco Bay Area. These groups have lobbied both locally and at the state level for increased housing production at all price levels, as well as using California's Housing Accountability Act (the "anti-NIMBY law"): : to sue cities when they attempt to block or downsize housing development. The New York Times explained about one organization: "Members want San Francisco and its suburbs to build more of every kind of housing. More subsidized affordable housing, more market-rate rentals, more high-end condominiums."
From 2018 to 2020, the lobbying group California YIMBY joined over 100 Bay Area technology industry executives in supporting state senator Scott Wiener's Senate Bills 827 and 50. The bills failed in the state senate after multiple attempts at passage.:: California YIMBY received $100,000 from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, $1 million from Irish entrepreneurs John and Patrick Collison through their company, Stripe, and $500,000 raised by Pantheon CEO Zach Rosen and GitHub CEO Nat Friedman.
YIMBY groups in California have supported the split roll effort to eliminate Proposition 13 protections for commercial properties, and supported the ballot measure known as Proposition 15, which would implement this change but failed to pass in 2020. This change would have potentially incentivized local governments to approve commercial property development (for its attendant business, payroll, sales and property tax revenue) over residential development and would not have provided funding earmarked for affordable housing development.
Since 2012, several YIMBY groups were established in the greater Boston area. One group argues that "...more smart housing development is the only way to retain a middle class in pricey cities like Boston and Cambridge."
In 2011, a YIMBY news website was created that focuses on construction trends in New York City. In an interview with Politico, the creator stated: "Zoning is the problem, not development in this city. I think people don't really understand that." Several YIMBY groups have also been created in New York City; according to an organizer: "In high-opportunity areas where people actually really want to live, the well-heeled, mostly white residents are able to use their perceived political power to stop the construction of basically anything," adding that low-income communities don't share that ability to keep development at bay: "Philosophically, we think that the disproportionate share of the burden of growth has been borne by low income, minority or industrial neighborhoods for far too long."
In September 2018, the third annual Yes In My Backyard conference, named "YIMBYTown" occurred in Boston, hosted by that area's YIMBY community. The first YIMBY conference was held in 2016 in Boulder, Colorado and hosted by a group that included Boulder's former mayor, who commented that: "It is clearer than ever that if we really care about solving big national issues like inequality and climate change, tackling the lack of housing in thriving urban areas, caused largely by local zoning restrictions, is key." The second annual conference was held in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Oakland, California. These conferences have attracted attendees from the United States, as well as some from Canada, England, Australia, and other countries.
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Out of a desire for more-equitable housing policy, some city dwellers have started allying with developers instead of opposing them.
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There's a growing recognition that opposition to growth — in Berkeley and Oakland, for example — contributed to environmentally unfriendly suburban and exurban sprawl, and that "infill development" — dense urban housing near mass transit — is now the way to go.
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The cause of our current shortage is 100% political," wrote Trauss in 2015, in an internet post that helped her build an army of followers to speak at public hearings, send letters and drum up support for housing on the internet.
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Although they span the political spectrum, from far left social-justice activists to hard-core libertarian free marketeers, YIMBYs generally agree that cities should be accessible and affordable for everyone, whether they own a million-dollar mansion or rent a $900-a-month studio, and whether they work as a barista or just moved to Seattle for a new job at Amazon.
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And its prescriptions vary thanks to the different groups that inevitably come together under its banner, such as construction industry people seeking deregulation aligning with social justice advocates who want tenant protections and affordability set-asides. Despite their different backgrounds, YIMBYs, who tend to be young and lean liberal, unify around the broad idea of adding more housing.
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...Gustav Svärd, spokesperson for the progressive urban network YIMBY, which has more than 6,000 members. ... Gustav Svärd agrees that Stockholm has many positive things going on, and has witnessed a dramatic change among politicians since YIMBY was founded in 2007.
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Svärd wants to completely rethink the PBL structure. "The PBL was basically shaped to prevent new developments, and it makes it virtually impossible to create truly connected urban fabrics. We need to transform, or abolish, the PBL and create real urban plans for larger areas. At the moment, every single house has to go through a massive process of bureaucracy and appeals.
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