Photo: Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr
Earlier this month, YIMBY housing advocates gathered in Oakland for the second annual YIMBYtown conference. They met in the hopes of furthering the conversation on the national housing crisis, connecting grassroots community leaders, and building better cities with more housing.
For those who aren’t up to date on housing advocacy lingo, NIMBY is the acronym for “not in my backyard,” while YIMBY takes the opposite approach: “yes, in my backyard.” Simply put, NIMBYs are anti-growth activists who say no to new housing and infrastructure — even as cities like San Francisco, Austin and New York see a rapid influx of wealthy residents. The new housing would be built not only to accommodate the new arrivals, but also to lessen the strain on the current tenants who risk being pushed out due to higher rents. The concerns expressed by NIMBYs include increased density, shadows caused by taller buildings, and changing the character of a neighborhood.
A few of the grassroots organizations paving the way include YIMBY Party, Yes, In My Backyard and East Bay Forward. YIMBY Party is a broad, Bay Area pro-housing voting platform for those seeking to spur change through advocacy. Their website includes an “Email Your Representative” tab as well as a calendar of relevant events for activists to attend.
Yes, In My Backyard (not to be confused with the overarching acronym), is a web-based information source for prison reuse projects. According to their reporting, between 2011 and June of 2014, 89 correctional facilities were closed across 25 states. The site covers news stories such as the conversion of a Staten Island Prison into a film and television studio, and provides briefings on town hall meetings that decide the fate of closed prisons.
Meanwhile, East Bay Forward is a more regionally-focused organization of citizens fighting for those who have been forced to move because they could no longer afford the rent, or those who are on the cusp of financial instability due to rising rent. The group wants to maximize density, increase public transit and prioritize natural resources. They organize around city council meetings, provide information on upcoming legislation, and organize campaigns to aid specific neighborhoods.
As the housing affordability crisis spreads wider, YIMBYs have begun to shout louder. To learn more about California’s housing shortage, explore YIMBY Action.