YIMBY – Pro-Development Activist Groups Support New Projects For Just Reasons
Developers have long fought local governments, the media and neighborhood groups in getting new projects approved. On the housing front, everyone complains that rents and home prices are too high. But from the developer’s point of view, the math is simple, particularly in urban areas. Height restrictions, parking requirements, zoning, density requirements and neighborhood opposition, not to mention land costs all make the cost of doing business high and therefore, the cost to the end user, expensive. Local governments aren’t willing to push back too hard because higher prices and rents means a higher tax base. Neighborhood groups inadvertently add to the problem. Organized efforts to limit scope, size and density of projects forces costs up and limits the housing inventory in communities thereby further pushing up rents and prices.
Activists across the country understand this and are taking a more prominent role in support of development, particularly smart growth. “YIMBY” groups (“Yes In My Backyard”) have formed across the country to speak in favor of development. These groups support mass transportation and pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridors, affordable housing, modern urbanization and redevelopment. They blog and they coordinate grass root efforts to support candidates and elected officials who will promote legislation in these areas and who facilitate these issues as part of the public discourse.
A YIMBY organization in the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Francisco Bay Area Renter’s Federation (SFBARF, yes, I am serious) has taken a cutting edged position in Lafayette, California to promote affordable housing. SFBARF recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Lafayette to block plans to build 44 single family homes on a tract of land which was previously planned for a 315-unit apartment complex. The plaintiff has based its lawsuit on the California Housing Accountability Act, a law which has been used by affordable housing developers who have had projects denied. This is the first time an advocacy group has used the law to block a project and advocate for greater density. In essence, SFBARF is taking a pre-emptive strike on behalf of a developer who is not named and who has not submitted an actual plan.
YIMBY groups are good partners to work with governments and developers to advocate for affordable housing projects and policies and to counteract opposition groups and the usual gadflies. With this type of support, perhaps developers will be able to save on one category of development costs that adds to rising rents and purchase prices – extortion fees paid to opposition groups in exchange for support of the “undesirable use” in the neighborhood.