These are the changes we advocate for governments to make. We believe these solutions are major steps toward a future of abundant housing that's affordable, inclusive, and sustainable.
Why We Need These Changes
We fight for more housing because we want to reduce poverty, end homelessness, eliminate racial segregation, create jobs, and stop climate change.
To Undo Racist Housing Policies
The housing shortage is rooted in a long history of racist practices. Systemic racism, past and present, hurts people of color and makes our communities more segregated. Federal, state, and local governments used housing policy to exclude people of color. People of color are also especially vulnerable to the soaring costs caused by the housing shortage. Deliberate policies denied people of color, especially Black families, access to wealth and opportunity. These policies continue to this day in the form of modern exclusionary housing policies.
Recognizing this shameful history is critical; the policies we advocate for must address historical wrongs as we create a housing-abundant future. We strive to enact thoughtful changes to our laws. We need to build more housing while protecting vulnerable people.
To Fight Poverty and Homelessness
When we fail to construct enough houses, working class families lose the ability to own a home, while renters similarly pay more and more of their income. Constantly rising housing prices make it more difficult for lower-income individuals and families to make their budgets work. This makes the homelessness crisis worse, as more people are priced out of their homes.
The housing shortage is a result of harmful laws passed at all levels of government. YIMBY Action policy platform is a set of changes to those laws. Our inclusive housing policies will help shrink the racial wealth gap, reduce displacement, reduce carbon emissions, and give more people access to jobs and high quality schools.
American neighborhoods are defined by exclusion. Our system of exclusionary zoning bans duplexes, apartments, subsidized affordable housing, student housing and more in most “residential” areas. Excluding these types of residences keeps neighborhoods homogeneous and makes housing more expensive. YIMBYs advocate for the end of this ban on apartments and other kinds of housing; we want to end exclusionary zoning (aka “upzone”).
Upzoning is especially important in wealthy, high-opportunity neighborhoods where current zoning laws reinforce racial and class segregation.
Policies we have advocated for in this category include density bonuses, legalizing Accessory Dwelling Units (aka granny flats), California’s More HOMES Act (SB 50), and zoning overlays.
Fund Affordable Housing
Most housing in the United States is “market-rate”. People or companies that own homes rent or sell them at a price where they can find a buyer. Even if housing becomes less expensive on the open market, there will likely always be people who can’t find housing at a price they can afford.
Traditionally, public funding helps provide housing for people with very low incomes. Funding for this kind of housing currently falls far short of what is needed. YIMBYs believe that we must increase funding for income-qualified housing at all levels of government. Funding affordable housing is critical to create a future of abundant, affordable housing for all.
Policies in this category include bonds for affordable housing, increasing Section 8 funding, and using existing government resources to increase funding for subsidized housing.
Increase Housing Stability
Past policy changes intended to address housing needs often had severe consequences for communities that were already vulnerable. As we advocate for more housing, we advocate strongly for laws that protect tenants and policies that protect vulnerable communities.
- Demolition controls requiring builders who tear down existing housing to build new housing to build at least as much new housing.
Even where housing is technically allowed, complicated and arbitrary permitting can slow, shrink, or stop housing in practice. Complicated permitting creates opportunities for corruption to flourish and makes building housing take much longer. It further drives up the cost of new housing.
Improving permitting is especially important in exclusionary neighborhoods. In those neighborhoods, wealthy homeowners often use complicated permitting rules to block new housing in their neighborhoods.
Policies in this category include “by right” or “as of right” permitting, permit streamlining, California’s SB 35, and reform of environmental review processes.
Poorly designed tax structures contribute to the high cost of housing. Those tax structures encourage cities to add jobs, but limit housing. Adding jobs but not housing means that cities can get tax revenue from businesses, without needing to pay for services (e.g., schools) for new residents.
Since many local governments have limited budgets, they try to get more revenue by charging fees on new housing projects. The fees discourage home builders and are often passed on to future residents.
States need to offer more help to local governments and fix these broken incentives. Better incentives can make cities build enough housing for workers. Better incentives can also make it feasible for home builders to build smaller, less expensive new homes.
Policies in this category include eliminating parking requirements, improving regional coordination on transit, and reforming broken tax policies that discourage residential building, such as California’s Proposition 13.
Our Solutions’ Limitations
Our policies are practical, actionable solutions to address the rising cost of housing and its negative effects. They are not set in stone. We have revised our policy platform in the past, and we expect to do so more in the future as we grow our movement and incorporate new perspectives
Our policy platform doesn’t address many issues that impact our goal, from transit funding to income inequality. We know those issues are important and support organizations who focus on those issues in particular.
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