Yimbyism Should Be The Future

Just who would ever believe that the State of California would have innovative zoning laws to allow more ancillary units…not just allow but demand that they be built.

For the past five years, Scott Wiener, a San Francisco state senator, has been busy chipping away at exclusionary zoning restrictions that have resulted in more and less expensive housing being built throughout the state. His movement is YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) to counteract the effects of nimbyism.

It all comes down to the heavy burden local zoning codes enact by continuing to allow the building of single-family homes without ancillary units. Throughout the country, we take a precious resource (vacant land) and bulldoze it over and create 1950s housing. These single-family homes that are far from retail, schools, work, and entertainment served a purpose at one point in the country’s development. They no longer do.

As we continue to see the manifestations of climate change, it is the height of irresponsibility to build these massive developments on our farms, ranches, and open lands. If you live in a house where you need to drive to take your kids to school, buy groceries, go to your business or job, or to eat dinner in a restaurant, you should know that it is unsustainable.

At the same time by continuing to allow only single-family construction within urban areas the municipality and its current residents are not allowing for enough growth to occur to house and employ the young, poor, and seniors. Nimby, in effect, contributes to an unequal society. As the cost of single-family homes become more and more expensive to own or rent, fewer and fewer people can move up the economic ladder. Wealth accumulation subsequently happens for fewer and fewer people since real estate ownership is out of reach.

The usual “liberal economic elite” that supposedly champions open opportunity are the biggest supporters of exclusionary zoning. Many of these people would rather give charitable donations which make themselves feel good but do nothing to allow for other classes to live and work throughout the community.

If one ancillary unit was mandated for all new construction of homes within an urban or suburban area, the effect would be to double the number of dwellings. Instead of having an adult child inhabit the basement or his childhood bedroom, he/she can have a place to live and save for a future. Seniors would be able to keep their independence longer by having a separate living unit from their children but still be where an eye can be kept on them. A family can have that extra income from renting a legal unit to someone else.

By having more of an emphasis on communal living, studies have shown that carbon footprints are smaller. Housing continues to become more and more expensive as a direct result of not building enough housing to meet demand for everyone. The predominant pattern of building single family housing crowds out more affordable options either for purchase or rental. The only way out of this dilemma is by allowing more density within the urban and suburban core.

But along with housing, we must provide for commercial development. Without industry, retail and offices being built, there cannot be jobs. This is the real sin of nimbyism which is an insidious and to some extent willful plan to allow the lower and working classes not to have the ability to climb the economic ladder. It is racism in another disguise.

Let us stop trying to re-create a world that no longer exists from a fast-fading past. We are no longer a frontier society or one from the mid-twentieth century. We need to adapt to the new realities.

We all need to adopt YIMBY as our credo and leave NIMBY to the “dust bin of history.” Too many would rather feel superior and continue as a donor class than help America mitigate global warming, improve our environment, provide jobs, and most importantly have good housing for all.

1950 Housing Development (Pinterest)