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A Year for ‘YIMBY’: The Good News From ‘22

East Harbor
Photo credit: Engage East Harbour

2022 was a rough year in many respects. Pandemic variants kept popping up. Natural disasters hit many areas. Political discourse became even more divisive and mean-spirited.  

Yet there have been some bright spots in this tumultuous year. At a time when the housing crisis is pervasive, some Americans are finally embracing the development of affordable housing. A movement toward YIMBYism – “Yes in my backyard” has started to take root.

Multifamily Dive recently assessed the results of the November elections, noting that many ballot measures passed, “collectively unlocking billions of dollars for new housing nationwide.” The article mentions a slew of examples where voters supported new funding and budget allocations, in locations including Colorado; Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Oakland, California; Buncombe County and Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; and Kansas City, Missouri.  

We’re pleased by these results, but we’re not all that surprised. A survey we conducted over the summer revealed a decrease in NIMBYist attitudes toward real estate development, especially in the realm of affordable housing. Most of our respondents expressed support for affordable housing for senior citizens; workforce housing for teachers, firefighters, and public servants; affordable housing for people with disabilities; and affordable housing for veterans.

There is still progress to be made, however. Multifamily Dive identified a few pro-affordable housing measures that did not pass, one of which was on the ballot in Santa Cruz, California. Although our survey data indicated strong support for affordable housing, the results also showed middling enthusiasm for low-income housing and minimal support for public housing. And we recently wrote about the decision of Atherton, California’s city council to drop a proposed change to zoning laws that would have allowed townhouses to be built in the wealthy enclave. The council had been swayed by NIMBYist opposition from residents.

Nevertheless, there is much to celebrate. The pandemic and social unrest of the past few years shone a light on the plight of underserved communities and on social inequities. Making housing more widely available and affordable for all is one way to address these problems, and it’s clear that more and more voters and local stakeholders understand this urgent need. 

We look forward to seeing – and playing a part in – the development of more affordable housing in 2023. For now, we believe that YIMBYs across the country will agree with our view that there is some “happy” in the holidays.

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