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What Being Pro-Housing Really Means

Affordable housing apartment block

When it comes to many of the issues around fair and equitable housing, there is oftentimes a problem of perception vs. reality. This exists not only in the typically-clear lines that divide NIMBYs and YIMBYs, but also includes the conditions that many people apply, knowingly or not, to their beliefs about housing — even when they think they’re standing up for progressive advancement. 

Although a few years old now, the 2018 Market Urbanism Report provides a good anchor example to this disparity. The report summarized some of the areas where there are clear disconnects between aspirations held by many liberals, often in the majority when it comes to advancing housing equity, and actual liberal policy that has been enacted. 

Many people assume that they are pro-housing, when perhaps their viewpoints and ideas about how their communities are changing contradict the basic tenets of having a true pro-housing stance. They believe at a high level that things should be made fairer, but when it infringes on their personal space, just as with their NIMBY counterparts, they are often backpedaling from their previously expressed ideology. 

We thought it would be helpful to break down what it truly means to be pro-housing, and take a look at where some of the biggest disconnects exist. To provide additional context, we’ve also included a report that addresses some of the biases that factor into conversations about housing. 

For starters, to be pro-housing, you also have to be pro-density. 

  • Many people who identify as pro-housing live in single-family houses and aren’t thinking about multi-family housing. But to be pro-housing, you have to be pro-density. Objections about how apartments or condos “change the character of a neighborhood” or “will impact traffic and parking” do not fit the mold. 
  • When we surveyed people in the U.S last summer, only 40.3% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would support added density to their neighborhood, i.e. adding apartments/condos or taller buildings. 
  • Support for added density is higher among those who consider themselves to be pro-development (54.0%), but still lower than one may assume considering how this group self-identifies. 

You have to be comfortable with progress, not perfection, on housing affordability. 

  • An interesting phenomenon we’ve seen over the past few years: housing projects getting shut down even if they go above and beyond the affordable housing minimums set forth by the city. 
  • Is a completely denied project better than a project with fewer affordable units than you’d like? Again, progress over perfection.

You have to be a housing advocate in your community. 

  • In most communities, appointed board members have a tremendous influence on decisions that are made about housing. 
  • From the Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning and Design Review Boards, to Affordable Housing Trusts and Housing Authorities, check out how you can apply to be on one of these boards in your community. 
  • If you can’t make the time commitment to serve on one of these boards, find out when the meetings are and show up when projects are on the agenda that would add or revitalize housing stock. 

People over cars, and housing over parking spaces.

  • One of the biggest hills that housing proposals have to climb? On-site, off-street parking minimums, AKA not having enough parking spots and concerns about parking and traffic. This is a popular one on the FB forums. 
  • In this case, we think it helps to boil the question down to its simplest form. What matters more to you, housing people or parking cars?

Thinking about housing through these more comprehensive viewpoints will help propel general supporters of equity and affordable housing into true proponents of a pro-housing shift in real estate development. 

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