By Natalie Rayment
You know your movement is gaining traction when the US President gets behind it.
Media outlets following last month’s world first YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) conference in Boulder Colorado highlighted the fact that even President Obama was in favour of freeing up planning laws to encourage good development.
In his piece in The New York Times on July 4, Conor Dougherty highlighted the impact increasingly restrictive zoning regulations have on housing, contributing to price rises across America and locking new buyers out of the market.
“In response, a group of politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown of California and President Obama, are joining with developers in trying to get cities to streamline many of the local zoning laws that, they say, make homes more expensive and hold too many newcomers at bay,” Conor wrote.
He highlights that, when zoning laws get out of hand, the damage to the economy and society as a whole can be profound.
“Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like maintaining neighborhood character or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest”.
“So far, the biggest solution offered comes out of California, where Governor Brown has proposed a law to speed up housing development by making it harder for cities to saddle developers with open-ended design, permit and environmental reviews. The Massachusetts State Senate passed similar reforms. And President Obama has taken a more soft-touch approach, proposing $300 million in grants to prod local governments to simplify their building regulations.”
The New York Times was just one of many local and national media outlets that covered the conference across the US. There was an eclectic mix of conference media, with Boulder’s The Daily Camera joined by journalists from Forbes, Next City and The Times, representatives from the Urbanist and a gaggle of bloggers.
The Daily Camera, was the first on the newsstands and, despite placing YIMBY QLD representatives Natalie Rayment and Mia Hickey from Wolter Consulting in Melbourne rather than Brisbane, did a great job in promoting the YIMBY movement and suggesting this could be the first of a series of YIMBY conferences.
Los Angeles based Next City published an article by Josh Stephens calling out the NIMBY (not in my back yard) attitude and introducing the YIMBYs cropping up all over America, as far north as Sitka in Alaska and even across the Pacific to Brisbane, Australia.
“NIMBY fervour fundamentally stems from fear of change, fuelled by ignorance about potential benefits of greater density and more economically diverse communities.” He describes YIMBYs as “a loose affiliation of activists fed up with what they consider undue political influence of NIMBYs”, and “over what they see as a wide gulf between responsible housing policy and the political realities of development”.
Forbes, while taking a tongue-in cheek approach, highlighted the fact that the YIMBY movement crosses the political divide, observing that neither side seems to have noticed they are fighting the same fight. Another short article followed, helping their readers understand the term YIMBY.
Articles have also cropped up in Canada, New Zealand, northern Europe and here in Australia.
The Wolter consulting duo were the only Australians to attend the conference and appear in the #YIMBY2016 video circulating the globe. They were also featured in the Urban Developer, posted before they set foot back on Australian soil.