YIMBYs Leading the Pro-Density Fight

Minneapolis has become an inspiration to other cities about how to successfully challenge NIMBY factions that oppose density and zoning reform.

2 minute read

June 1, 2019, 1:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink

Minneapolis Minnesota

Tony Webster / Flickr

Philip Kiefer traces the path Minneapolis took to passage of a plan last year that eliminates single-family zoning in the city. A city council member who supported increased density was an important start, but the YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) momentum was bolstered by some creative grassroots activism, says Kiefer:

The way [John] Edwards sees it, the NIMBY [Not in My Backyard] talking points — concerns over neighborhood character and belligerent renters — are a kind of propaganda, "so it’s time for some counter-propaganda." The early Neighbors for More Neighbors memes were done in the style of National Parks advertisements. "Remember: Only you can prevent sprawl," says a beaver in a park ranger hat. "Help keep America green. End single-family zoning."

The Neighbors for More Neighbors advocacy group organized members to show up at public meetings, community events, and neighborhood walks, and the outreach paid off when the city council passed the Minneapolis 2040 plan in December.

"Without the YIMBYs, the Neighbors for More Neighbors organizers think, the eventual plan would have been substantially watered-down, or consensus never would have emerged. As Edwards put it, the YIMBYs had city council 'looking over both shoulders,'" writes Kiefer.

Seattle activists looked to Minneapolis as they cranked up their own zoning reform efforts. Although they faced a number of setbacks and fierce opposition, the YIMBY contingent came together and support for increased density was high, says Kiefer. In March, the city council passed the Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation to allow larger developments and to promote affordable housing.

"The real work wasn’t necessarily convincing the other side, [Patience] Malaba said. It was persuading enough people that changing some thing as dry as zoning codes could have an outsized influence on their homes, their neighbors, and their booming city," notes Kiefer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019 in Grist

Aerial view of homes on green hillsides in Daly City, California.

Depopulation Patterns Get Weird

A recent ranking of “declining” cities heavily features some of the most expensive cities in the country — including New York City and a half-dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

April 10, 2024 - California Planning & Development Report

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Walkways and escalator at crowded transit station, with one person walking a bike in foreground.

Best Practices for Outsourcing Transit Operations

Contracting with private sector vendors can help transit agencies improve efficiency and provide better service.

April 14 - Smart Cities Dive

White sign with No Camping - Violators Subject to Arrest and municipal code in red text with snowy trees in background.

Opinion: Unhoused People Need Housing, Not Law Enforcement

The sharp increase in the unhoused population calls for urgent action, not criminalization.

April 14 - The Hill

Google street view of grassy lot next to brick church with elevated freeway on other side in Houston, Texas.

Houston Supportive Housing Development Sparks Debate

Critics say a proposed apartment building would negatively impact the neighborhood’s walkability.

April 12 - Houston Chronicle

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.