YIMBYs Exposed: The Techies Hawking Free Market "Solutions" to the Nation's Housing Crisis

Meronek, Toshio
Date Written:  2018-05-21
Publisher:  In The Times
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22950

Anti-displacement activists hate them. Tech firms and big developers love them -- and shower them with cash.



Tensions over the housing affordability crisis were on full display at an April 3 rally against a California housing development bill, SB 827. Low-income housing activists, largely seniors and people of color, crowded the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall to protest a measure they believed would displace their communities.

When a white counter-protester, Sonja Trauss, waded into the crowd for a photo op next to their signs, she got into a physical altercation and was removed by a sheriff’s deputy. Trauss says she was shoved.

The 36-year-old has gained national acclaim as the founder of the YIMBY movement, as in "Yes, In My Backyard." YIMBYs are self-described "grassroots, pro-housing" agitators who have become a major presence in high-cost, rapidly gentrifying markets like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Seattle. Their strategy is grounded in the free-market logic of supply and demand: Build more housing and housing costs will go down.

YIMBYs pose themselves as the antidote to the problem of not-in-my-backyard-ism. In San Francisco, that NIMBY stereotype has a basis in reality: "Concerned" neighborhood groups have, time and again, blocked new housing for reasons that range from aesthetic distaste to pearl-clutching about crime rates.

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