YIMBYtown banner

Yes to Homes, But I’m No “YIMBY”

YIMBYtown banner

A couple weeks ago, I packed my bags and headed off to Boston for an annual gathering called YIMBYtown. I’m no YIMBY. I want everyone to have a safe, affordable place to live, and for that to happen we need to build enough homes to go around. (Yes, that includes apartments, like my own apartment-that-is-a-home.) I’m pro-people-having-homes.

I went to YIMBYtown in search of smart conversation with people working on similar problems in other cities. At the opening reception for the conference (which included a nun-themed drag show), I chatted with David Whitehead. I confessed my dislike for the YIMBY name; he responded that he liked it. We decided to explore the name together in an Unconference session.

Our submission made it into the program:  

Title: Is YIMBY the wrong word for me? Let’s discuss.

Are you feeling at home here in terms of ideas, but struggle with the word YIMBY? Are you here because you LOVE the word YIMBY? Join us for a discussion about how you self-identify in this work, and why it matters.

After 45 minutes, I left the workshop liking YIMBY less than I did going in, which may not be a surprise. But, everyone else in the room (including David) did, too.

What did we like?

YIMBY is punchy, easy to say, and full of energy. It’s provocative. It’s action-oriented. It says, “I show up to say yes.”

What didn’t work for us?

Optics are important. Using YIMBY boxes the movement into someone else’s polarizing, yes-no framing. There’s no option for a third, win-win solution, even in this most complex and three-dimensional place of our communities. In accepting “the other side’s” framing without questioning, the movement loses control of the story. It lets the “no” folks define the terms of the debate. It leaves no space for pro-housing folks to write our own story.

It doesn’t reference the movement’s values or vision, which invites others to define them for the movement. YIMBY doesn’t acknowledge that our work is about people, and especially the most vulnerable people in our communities having affordable, safe, healthy homes. It doesn’t even name the issue we’re organizing around. A quick glance at the YIMBYtown schedule shows lots of sessions about building diverse coalitions, stopping displacement, housing trusts, equity, and (not listed) warmly welcoming an anti-displacement protest during a plenary. The event was mostly attended by people developing affordable housing, identifying as socialists, and advocating for racial justice. Attendees develop affordable housing, identify as socialists, and advocate for racial justice.

To me, the most damning critique is YIMBY’s blindness to the implicit white (and wealth) privilege in the movement’s name. If you say “Yes In My Back Yard,” you imply that you have a yard to share. You imply that you get to decide whether to share it or not. You assert that when you show up to a public meeting decision-makers will listen to you. This doesn’t represent most people active in the movement. Not only do many of us rent and lack a yard, a goal of our organizing is to remove the ability of powerful, wealthy homeowners to decide whether less wealthy, less powerful people have a right to housing.

There were plenty of smaller critiques, too. YIMBY is a tactic, not a movement. It’s a jargony acronym that presumes you know about NIMBYs and YIMBYs, what YIMBY is about, and why zoning matters. YIMBY is distancing when we need allies and to make it easier to understand what we’re fighting for. It’s provocative, but also awkward. It’s positive, but as you dig in a little more, it’s not so much positive as it’s a reaction to another set of advocates. And it’s literal — too literal. One workshop participant shared a story of trying to explain to a pro-housing friend that being a YIMBY didn’t mean she wanted someone to build homes in her literal back yard, but the vision of people living in her small woods stopped her from signing on as a new YIMBY.

I don’t know whether the people at YIMBYtown were representative of pro-housing people or not. I know that they aren’t representative of who is loudest about YIMBY issues on social media. I suspect that they haven’t thought deeply about the name they’ve chosen. I encourage pro-housing people to explore who we are, what we stand for, and whether we need a new name that conveys our positive vision.


Neighbors for More Neighbors yardsign

Here in the Twin Cities, we have Neighbors for More Neighbors. It began as an art project pointing out the often-absurd discussion about adding new homes in our neighborhoods. Recognizing the shortage of places to live in our region, n4mn took a cue from earlier project-specific successes. It’s morphed into organizing people to show up to say, “I’m a neighbor of this project, and I want more neighbors.”

Let me add something critical. n4mn would never say that building homes is enough to solve the problem. We need to invest in social housing. We need to pass and enforce REAL tenants’ rights. Without those things, we’ll never get to a world where everyone has a stable place to call home. The Twin Cities has great people organizing for tenants rights and funding for social housing. n4mn shows up in support of that work.

But of course, we also need to build enough homes to go around. As a not-YIMBY, I’ve signed on with n4mn, because dismantling covertly racist policies that make it illegal to build enough homes in desirable neighborhoods is necessary. Eliminating policies that make it more expensive to build homes is also necessary. Other Minnesota advocates aren’t leading on YIMBY-style policies, and n4mn is.

Here in the Twin Cities, I don’t have to wrestle with whether I’m a YIMBY or not. I can just say I’m a Neighbor who welcomes More Neighbors. That’s a name I love.

About Janne Flisrand

Janne Flisrand spends her time thinking about how people interact with the space around them. Why do they (or don't they) walk or bike or shop somewhere? How do spaces feel? Why do people sit here and not there? Why bus instead of bike, bike instead of drive? What sorts of spaces build community, and what sorts kill it? Can spaces build civic trust and engagement?

58 thoughts on “Yes to Homes, But I’m No “YIMBY”

    1. Janne

      Oops! I had linked that in an early version of my post, and that bit got lost as I edited. Thanks for adding it back in.

  1. Trent

    In Minneapolis it seems to have morphed into YIYBY, Yes in Your backyard, as many of the pro-density activists who are self identified as YIMBY are in fact more interested in determining what happens in other parts of the city than their own.

    1. Janne

      I live in Lowry Hill, right on the border with East Isles. We in Southwest have got a lot of work to do to make space in my neighborhood, and that’s why I’m advocating to dismantle the race-based exclusionary zoning in my own neighborhood.

      Most of Minneapolis (and the Twin Cities region) has refused to do it’s part. Our region is growing, and that means we can’t just rely on the most vulnerable neighborhoods to welcome all those new people.

      It’s key in making sure every kid in our communities has access to opportunity, as the places least likely to make space are the ones that have disproportionately much opportunity.

      This map is striking, especially when you compare it with where we allow new homes to be built. https://www.opportunityatlas.org/

    2. Christa MChris Moseng

      It’s almost as if there’s a flaw in the idea that people have exclusive rights over a part of the city, particularly to exclude others on the basis of income or whether their dwelling is multifamily, because they own land in the general vicinity.

  2. cdelle

    What works in Minneapolis might not work in other parts of the country. It’s unfair to put YIMBYs against More Neighbors. There are many ways to work on these important issues. I don’t find it helpful to say one is doing a better job than another organization, with dedicated hard working members, who all have the same goals simply because of their organization name. I think we let the other side win and people who have been critical of the established YIMBY brand because they disagree with more housing. YIMBY can evolve and make it more explicit what they support. I’ve never encountered a pro-displacement YIMBY and one against tenant protections/renter’s rights.

    1. Janne

      YIMBYtown attracted people from across the country and beyond. The work they and their thousands of volunteers are doing is important, and I absolutely support that. This post isn’t in any way about the work anyone is doing, or my opinion on others’ name choice. It’s an inherently local political decision, and groups must chart our respective paths responding to our local circumstances.

      The people in our workshop were geographically diverse, including representation from Portland, Washington DC, New York, Boston and it’s suburbs, the Twin Cities, and more. My goal here was to share our collective reaction to YIMBY and whether it helps us achieve our goals or not. I was honestly surprised at the degree reaction was negative and the few positives we as a group had.

      It made an impression on my just how many people commented on how they wished they could steal the Neighbors for More Neighbors name over the course of the weekend. Something about the name we’ve chosen here resonates with others in a way YIMBY does not. I think it’s important to name that, and to ask what that means for the movement, if anything.

  3. Monte Castleman

    I don’t see any win-win scenario with the 2040 plan; it’s a zero sum game. Either apartment towers and fourplexes (or triplexes or whatever) are going to be allowed next to single family detached homes or they’re not. If you don’t want to have to live next to one you’re not going to be happy if they’re allowed and happy of they’re not allowed. If you want more density in the city or want more neighbors you’re not going to be happy if they’re not allowed and happy if they’re allowed.

    1. jeffk

      I agree with Monte on this one. Being too cool for “YIMBY” strikes me as too cute by half. Pretending there aren’t two fairly clear sides on this, with a few subtleties, sure, but still, seems wilfully niave (or in the case of backyard ownership, needlessly literal). I’d be impressed with a single word that better describes the collection of people that, while not a completely homogeneous entity, tend to err on the side of “yes” and the increased density (and walkability, bikability, and energy efficiency) that comes with it.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        To me, the middle ground is in what’s actually going to happen versus what’s allowed. People who don’t want a small multi unit next door are deeply unlikely to wind up with one. If they do, they’re perhaps even more unlikely to find it any worse than a new McMansion (because it won’t be allowed to be any bigger). It will probably have “enough” parking. It may even be “better” than the guy on the block who has four dilapidated cars.

        But I didn’t read a Janne as arguing for a middle ground as much as YIMBY being inadequate as a slogan, both politically and in terms of policy.

        1. Steve S

          Adam, your McMansion example would be my argument against city wide fourplexes. It appears to me that McMansions were built because people could, so what actually happened was what was allowed and it wasn’t pleasant. I don’t know the history of McMansions – did people see those coming?

          I think most people (just a guess) don’t want McMansions built next to their house and if you’re saying that a fourplex is unlikely to be any worse, that’s not a selling point to me for the fourplex.

          (I’m fairly new to reading this site. I enjoy it and I want to thank you and all the regular contributors for your efforts.)

          1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

            The McMansions are being built because they are the only thing allowed to be built, for the most part. Housing that’s past its useful life – at least relative to the land value and demand for housing in those neighborhoods – are being replaced with the only thing allowed: a more expensive single unit of housing.

            I completely sympathize with not wanting a McMansion next door, mostly because it seems wasteful, but I don’t think there’s a realistic or desirable way to stop people from building new houses and if there isn’t, then I’d much rather that new housing come with more units.

            Also, I’m not sure people’s aversion to McMansion are as strong as some claim, given the apparent strong value of nearby properties.

            1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

              My sense is that the regulations Saint Paul has tried to use are ineffective. Whatever rule you come up with, the developers will find ways to evade or stretch. That’s the nature of private property when there’s so much money at stake in these expensive SFH neighborhoods.

              1. Steve S

                I live in St. Paul (Merriam Park neighborhood). My block hasn’t had any tear downs, but as I read about the regulations as they were being written I thought it was also complex and confusing.

                To your point, Bill, about the developers: that’s one reason I don’t want a fourplex built next to my house even though I’m for affordable housing (and I embrace that contradiction). On one hand I read criticisms about developers doing what they want and complaints about landlords and on the other hand I’m being asked to allow the developers and landlords to increase their presence on my block in the future.

              2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                Right. If they can’t tear down, they will add on. If they can’t add on, they’ll add garage or carriage house space (if allowed). If they’re constrained in how much space they can add, they’ll luxurify.

                As long as the demand (and therefor land value) is there, it’s not going to remain a modest house.

                1. Rosa

                  and if the demand is not there, when the modest house gets too old or burns down or gets mold in the basement, there will be an empty lot, which if you’re lucky will be a community garden or an art project and not just someone’s extra large lawn.

                  We can’t magically control the market to keep the possible sale price in every neighborhood at the level where what you get are affordable single family homes.

      2. Janne

        Jeff, for me this isn’t about cool. Heck, no one has ever called me cool, and there’s no risk of that.

        Rather, as I’ve reached out to potential allies, I’ve struggled to connect, and it’s because language has gotten in the way. For me, the question is how can I set up a conversation to build the political power to make building homes legal, and win the tenants’ rights and funding we need to achieve the outcome we all support.

        Obviously, I’m all in on yes to more homes, and walkability, bikeability, and energy efficiency. That list is my resume as a transit advocate, green building program administrator, co-founder of Our Streets Minneapolis, and vocal n4mn volunteer and spokesperson.

        I’m raising this because YIMBY language is a barrier to building the grassroots power we need to achieve them, and ensure everyone has a stable home.

        1. jeffk

          I see where you’re coming from… But it’s not clear to me who these potential allies are that are put off by “yes in my backyard”. Either they’re not really that interested in being allies, or I’m missing something.

          Actually another example, like probably a fair number of Streets.mn supporters I also follow Strong Towns. They’re also trepidatious with using “YIMBY” even though to me they clearly *are*, and are simply working too hard to emphasize small ideological subtleties.

          I want us to simultaneously coalesce around one simple label (and if there’s something better, ok, but I haven’t heard it) and I worry this kind of careful parsing leads more to splintering that new allies. There’s room for disagreement and different philosophies within “YIMBY”.

          This may be a reach, but it feels a little like “I’m not a feminist, I just agree with all of that but the word has too much baggage”.

  4. Joe Resident

    The YIMBY thing is one of the worst things to happen to cities. It is based on the idea that one shouldn’t listen to other people in public processes. It says “You are against this and I am not going to listen.”

    It is based on the belief that “NIMBYism” is actually a thing. That is to say that there is an “ism” or defining set of principles behind opposing a development or more pointedly defending the built environment that exists.

    The fact is there isn’t such a thing. NIMBY is a term that is used to de-legitimize persons in a way similar to racial slurs and other stereotypical words (broad, white trash, etc). In each of those cases the terms are used to de-humanize and see a person as a member of a an imagined group as opposed to an individual. NIMBY is the urban equivalent of a racial slur. Each case and city is different.

    Look across the “literature” and articles that exists and you will see an inevitable mention of San Francisco and/or an east coast city – usually New York. This suggests that somehow midwestern rust belt, sun belt, second and third tier MSAs, inner ring suburbs in all their varied forms and so on have anything in common with these other cities. They each have their own challenges and differences and such comparisons are ridiculous.

    It is like an urban version of “White Man’s burden.”

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      I don’t think you’ve given enough thought to the history and power dynamics behind racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation and identity slurs. It’s more than just being mean to people.

      1. Joe Resident

        Adam, With all due respect perhaps you haven’t given it enough thought.

        Nobody said, “just being mean to people.” What I said was it, “is used to de-legitimize persons in a way similar to racial slurs and other stereotypical words (broad, white trash, etc). In each of those cases the terms are used to de-humanize and see a person as a member of a an imagined group as opposed to an individual.”

        Note the words de-legitimize and de-humanize. I don’t think any objective reader would characterize that as “just being mean.”

        For the record, I am for urban development, retrofitting suburbs, and better urban form. The fact is that in my experience there are often many good reasons to oppose particular developments and a lot of the market benefits are overstated. Displacement, class and diversity issues are often understated.

    2. Mike

      Putting aside the labels, It often seems that the pro/con arguments for a particular development come from different groups. Rarely – ever? is it the person in a 1.5 story bungalow cheering the construction of a 6 story apartment building next door.

      The fans of that building are generally blocks or miles away and they like it because it fits some neat urban planning profile. I think it’s easier to cheer on such a change if it’s not literally in your backyard, or side yard, or across the street. They think the bungalow resident should share their view, and if they don’t like it they can move to the suburbs.

      And so when the people for whom this proximity is an issue raise concerns – height, traffic, parking, privacy, runoff, whatever, the NIMBY label is applied, again largely by people who do not have the same potential of impact. Whatever concerns they have are quickly dismissed as not legitimate (“sunshine? heck people pay for awnings you’re gonna get shade for free!”) .

    3. Derek

      There might not be some strictly defined ideology behind “NIMBYs” but if you pay attention to typical “NIMBY” complaints you see a clear trend that they will basically oppose anything to maintain the status queue. All concerns are worth listening to but concerns that are just opposing change for changes sake are not a legitimate concerns. Cities are constantly evolving and just because someone joined a neighborhood 50 years ago doesn’t mean they are entitled to that neighborhood forever.

      It’s ironic you bring up race when racial minorities have always been on the receiving end of bad urban policy in the US and NIMBYism is just another way for people with more political power to screw over the most vulnerable in our cities, which tend to be minorities. The NIMBY neighborhoods get all the benefits of a city that is growing while they export the problems to poorer neighborhoods. NIMBYs are real and they hurt everyone for their own gain.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        I think it’s helpful (to the extent that the term is useful at all) to think of NIMBY not as a group of people as much as a phenomenon. When a change is proposed, there will be someone there to be concerned about traffic or parking or sunlight or whatever. And these concerns are typically not grounded in careful analysis – seriously, people routinely act like housing density is what causes traffic, when it does not – but rather are whatever those opposed to change think they can reasonably say.

        No amount of analysis or explanation will make those stated complaints go away, thus the issue.

      2. Joe Resident

        “if you pay attention to typical “NIMBY” complaints you see a clear trend that they will basically oppose anything to maintain the status queue.”

        This indicates what I said above. Not listening. The minute someone says “parking” or “traffic” then all other concerns are ignored.

        “Cities are constantly evolving and just because someone joined a neighborhood 50 years ago doesn’t mean they are entitled to that neighborhood forever.”

        Again I thank you for your comment. It shows *exactly* the YIMBY mindset of not listening. Many of these cases are very specific to their locales. As I said above an inner ring suburb in Atlanta might not be the same as Texas or Boston. A rust belt city isn’t the same as Phoenix and so on.

        There is no claim of being entitled to live in a place the same for 50 years. That is invented and it is not a legitimate argument. There is no NIMBY manifesto.

        But this is all the point isn’t it? Putting all objections in varied cities about varied proposals into one bucket so as to dismiss them.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          Or actually listening and noting the objection are unfounded. People literally say “parking” and “traffic” in response to every single housing proposal. Heck, they say it in response to the abstract notion of more small multi-family housing here in North Richfield, where neighbors at times have four trucks and a trailer parked on the street without issue.

          None of these cases are “very specific,” if they were, they wouldn’t be nearly identical. The people raising them may not know that, because they sometimes aren’t paying attention to anything that’s not local to them (although if we’re being honest, the same antis also show up against everything) but the uniformity is enough to raise question about what people really mean.

          1. Joe Resident

            If none of the cases are specific, then (1) you are against public input processes, and (2) not listening.

              1. Joe Resident

                Ahhh Yes. Attack the speaker as ignorant. Now it gets personal. “I can’t possibly be wrong.” I can assure you my credentials are not thin.

                Nope. Of course the way to disprove you would be to show you many zoning cases I’ve attended where exactly what I described occurred. Obviously one isn’t going to do that in a comment section on a blog.

                For example, in one case a woman argued that the undeveloped area should use Seaside as a template. She was a not a trained planner or trained anything. So here you have a case where unwittingly the opposition hits on a smart model. Like art I know it when I see it.

                Of course afterward she along with the rest were labelled as NIMBYs and of course because someone might have traffic the rest of the claims were dismissed.

                1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

                  I’m not sure how noting either of those things is an “attack” (and certainly no more so than suggesting I’m against public input or not listening), but whatever.

                  You may well have vastly more experience with these things than I (that would not be hard), but based on what you’ve said here, you still sounds much to credulous to me.

                  1. Joe Resident

                    “you don’t follow these issues very closely” = attack.

                    i.e. attack the speaker as ignorant.

                    One part of the solution to these problems must include developers and planners realizing that working with the public is a key skill that they should be taught and exercise. That includes talking to them before plans are passed across the desk and before everyone spends money and therefore later simply in reaction mode.

                    If you are convinced the *real* problem isn’t mutual but is *them* then the common definition of insanity will prevail. Repeating things and expecting different results.

                  2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

                    Moderator’s note: how credulous people might or might not be shouldn’t be something we speculate about. Let’s just assume everyone is being straightforward.

        2. Derek

          The reason might vary but the same handful of reasons tend to pop up all over the country. They might actually believe that new development will cause a traffic apocalypse, but I doubt their open to changing their minds. They will just pick one of the NIMBY greatest hits and hold ground.

          You make it sound like these local groups are a persecuted group but they definitely have a ton of influence in local politics. What about the renter that is facing skyrocketing rents due to lack of housing? When do they get their say?

    4. Steve S

      Joe Resident, while I completely agree with you that the NIMBY term is used to de-legitimize other’s views and also to define them to their detriment, it’s not the “equivalent” of a racial slur and that kind of threw me as I was reading and agreeing with most of your argument.

      A racial slur is often used to remind the minority that the user has power and control over them. The slur is a reminder of the power differential. I would guess that so-called NIMBYs and non-NIMBYs might often be of the very same demographic and in a lot of cases the NIMBYs have the power.

  5. Stuart

    “Let me add something critical. n4mn would never say that building homes is enough to solve the problem.”

    I repeatedly see people knocking down this argument (“building homes solves housing affordability problem”) – yet I have not once seen any YIMBY make this argument. It just seems like such a blatant and unproductive straw man tactic to knock down arguments no one is making. If anyone has links to YIMBYs making this argument, particularly notable ones but I’d be interested to see any rando YIMBY doing it – please share with me so I can see what others must be seeing.

    From my POV, YIMBYs advocate an all-of-the-above strategy which includes lots of subsidies from local, state and federal governments, and non-profits, and of course realize that the market will never build housing for the many people who have $0 in annual income.

    1. Janne


      And, despite that, there’s a misperception that YIMBYs say this. Where do you think that comes from, Stuart?

      1. Stuart

        I’d guess multiple reasons, a few off the top of my head would be:

        1) amount of energy YIMBYs spend fighting for market-rate development
        2) demographic of YIMBYs
        3) it can be useful for those on opposing side of issue to attack a straw man and spread misinformation about your group’s goals/beliefs, whether its intentional choice or unconscious bias

        I am curious about the source of this perception, because you have different remedies for it depending on whether it’s an actual belief held by a significant number of people within your cause or if it’s entirely misconceptions held by outsiders that should be addressed.

    2. Steve S


      It would be helpful if you cited an actual example of someone quoted as saying that YIMBY’s claim that building homes solve affordability problems.

      It’s not that I don’t believe you or think you’re being intentionally misleading, but it seems fair that you provide some evidence since you asked for evidence on the other side. Otherwise it looks like you’re just making your own straw man argument.

      1. Stuart

        @ScottS – I started this thread with the author’s quote:

        “Let me add something critical. n4mn would never say that building homes is enough to solve the problem.”

        That prompted me to ask, who is making this argument? (The author followed up to say they think it’s important that the perception that this argument is made is out there, which I agree)

        But here are some examples:

        1. https://48hills.org/2017/07/listen-yimby/ (In theory, if the Nimbys would just get out of the way, Econ 101 would work, and the Magic of the Market would solve the problem, as private developers simply built to meet the need.)

        2. https://theconversation.com/just-building-more-homes-wont-fix-the-housing-crisis-heres-why-60655

        3. https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/affordable-housing/tiny-houses-alone-cant-solve-the-housing-crisis-but-heres-what-can-20180508 (Tiny Houses are subset of YIMBY movement I’d say, and here is yet another article arguing against a proposition that they show no one actually making)

        Also easy to find this on Twitter:

        https://twitter.com/tom_hirschfeld/status/1034665859371827200 (original tweet is quite ridiculous given the most prominent YIMBY, Sen. Wiener, proposed major legislation that would upzone land around transit)



        I could go on there, but there are a few to check out. I’m still looking for one example of a YIMBY actually making this argument. That shouldn’t be hard, as you can find extremists from all kinds of movements making crazy arguments on Twitter (flat earthers, pizzagaters), but I haven’t even seen that, much less blog posts or articles or YIMBY groups making this argument.

        1. Julie Kosbab

          Hey Stuart – just wanted to let you know that this got embargoed for links, but we approved it and got rid of the other copy. System holds comments with multiple links to save you from pharma spam.

          — Julie

  6. Daughter Number Three

    My first awareness of the usage “not in my backyard” was from travesties like Love Canal, the Erin Brockovich story, and our local examples in North Minneapolis or Phillips with heavy metal plants and other polluted sites. It’s odd that the term morphed into SFHers fighting changes to zoning. I guess that shows their social power.

    I’m not trying to derail Janne’s point, but wanted to point out that aside from the reasons she raised to dislike the Y/N dichotomy and who has a yard, etc., some folks may rightly think NIMBY is a good thing, when it comes to fighting polluters in low-income neighborhoods.

    1. mplsjaromir

      The issue is that some people believe multi family housing is as destructive and undesirable as a toxic waste facility. Fighting against an industrial polluter and a triplex should not be seen as the same battle.

      I think a big part of the YIMBY movement is getting people around to the idea that more people is a good thing! Not only from a environmental standpoint, but also a culturally and society in general.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        It’s a good thing for you as a neighbor! It means more customers for your neighborhood business. That alone should be a plus.

        But no because parking.

  7. Stuart

    I did also want to add that I really enjoyed this article! I love YIMBYism for the ideas behind it rather than the name/branding, so as long as effective, humane policies are advanced and people’s lives are improved, I’m not too concerned with the specific vehicle/branding that gets there.

    Even though I’d guess YIMBYism is concentrated in cities where relatively few advocates actually have backyards, I see how the acronyms isn’t inclusionary. Also agree about the jargon being alienating. I like Neighbors for More Neighbors – I’m guessing N4MN would be happy if other cities opened chapters with the same name? Would there be a way to identify them – like Neighbors for More Neighbors NYC? If not, then I’d guess each city would have to find it’s own name?

  8. Wanderer

    At least in the Bay Area, it is pretty clear that the idea of “YIMBY” arose in opposition to the inordinate power of NIMBY here. Maybe people think NIMBY is a mean term. Propose a better one for a region where housing supply has been so choked that little bungalows sell for over a million dollars in many places. We’ve paid an awful price to maintain “neighborhood character.”

    To me this seems like unnecessary handwringing. My statement might be “Yes, I want more neighbors. I want more people sharing this city with me. So I say yes in my backyard and other places too.”

    I see “We just need to build housing. Period” on comment fields on urbanist sites. Sometimes it’s used as a rationalization to ignore affordable housing or rent control. I suspect these folks are not our organizers and strategists, but it is out there.

    Policies and projects that actually happen are usually ones that can assemble a relatively broad political coalition around them. Coalitions have multiple organizations that use different names but share the same goal. So might embrace “YIMBY” some not.

  9. Steve S

    As I read through all the comments (and I’ve made a couple, too) on this interesting article, I’ve become exhausted by all the labels being thrown around. While I am not naive to the need for people to organize their like-mindedness to exert influence, labeling and defining others too easily becomes a gateway to group think and nastiness toward those you disagree with (e.g., see all social media).

    Although I own a home (SFH!) my block has three duplexes and one apartment (eight units) complex on it so am I really a SFHWMFDN (single family homeowner with multi-family dwellings nearby)? At this moment in time, I don’t want a fourplex built next to my house. Does that mean I am an all-in NIMBY? Or am I really a closet YIMBY because maybe in ten or fifteen years when I am ready to move I might gladly sell my house to be torn down for a luxury home/fourplex. Call me a SIMBY (Situational In My Back Yard)?

    My point is that labels can quickly become ridiculous and distracting. How housing will or should change in the future is a complex issue that none of us should claim to fully understand and the first ideas that we should try to find fault with are our own.

      1. Stuart

        I agree that labels can lead to groupthink and not be 100% accurate, they also seem pretty important for organizing and mobilizing groups of citizens to take action and advocate on important issues. “Diverse Group of Concerned Citizens with Nuanced, Complex, and Varied Views on Housing Affordability, Access, Sustainability, and Other Urban Issues” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

        1. Steve S

          True, and by the time you said the name of your group your public comment time at the podium would be up 🙂

          1. Andrew Evans

            My partner and I walked past some signs in uptown last night. They rolled their eyes at me and asked if I was serious as I explained the beef between the YIMBY and whatever other group it was. We got a good laugh out of it.

            We also got a great kick out the comments that “back yard” is divisive or only means homeowners. We thought it was a common enough term and worked well enough for it’s use and moved on.

  10. Holly Weik

    I really like Janne’s original point that the labels aren’t helpful and are really inaccurate. I also think it’s somewhat ironic that the term “my back yard” implies I have control over what is actually NOT “my” back yard. It’s an attempt on both parts to control my *neighbor’s* back yard, or their front yard, or the surrounding square mile. Sometimes it’s appropriate (toxic waste, offgassing, fracking, anyone?) and sometimes it’s not. We need a better term because NIMBY and YIMBY both seem to be divisive and don’t really capture what either side is trying to accomplish.

    1. Janne

      Holly, I really like your point that it’s about controlling what’s NOT in our back yards. How’d our workshop miss that one? Thanks for adding it here!

  11. Ben Unger

    Great article. Thanks for sharing. I do believe that “organizing… to remove the ability of powerful, wealthy homeowners to decide whether less wealthy, less powerful people have a right to housing” is THE goal of the YIMBY movement. Moreover, if someone wants more housing in theory but not in their own backyard they’re not a YIMBY but a great example of a NIMBY, the problem.

Comments are closed.