YIMBYs, NIMBYs, and anti-displacement

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Planning policy, and especially zoning policy, has thus become the nexus of three-way conflict: the YIMBYs (pro-development, pro-affordability), the NIMBYs (anti-development, without much to say about affordability), and the anti-displacement movement (anti-development, pro-affordability). At least two of these factions, the YIMBYs and the anti-displacement movement, ostensibly share the same goals. They both hope to see a more affordable city. But their conflicts are flaring up more and more, threatening to perpetuate a dangerous status quo in which meager wage increases and soaring rents create dystopian cities only accessible to the rich.


Fortunately, momentum is growing behind an approach to development that can balance the imperative of more housing with the need to prioritize stability for low-income communities. The approach emphasizes the importance of removing property from the speculative market by putting it in public control or in democratic community ownership. It flies in the face of forty years of neoliberal housing policy that stressed the replacement of public housing with for-profit ownership and the transfer of publicly owned land to the private sector.

This approach—in need of its own handy moniker but growing out of political and economic strategies like economic democracy, the urban commons, and democratic socialism—favors entities like community land trusts (CLTs), a form of hybrid homeownership in which a democratically governed nonprofit owns the land under homes and commits to ensuring their permanent affordability and upkeep. A CLT can shelter housing from gentrification and carve out a place for low-income families in changing neighborhoods. There are over two hundred CLTs across the country, and dozens more are taking shape in cities with the most acute affordability crises.

- Leo Goldberg, A Better Housing Policy Is Possible