Congressional Spending Bill Includes First Ever Federal ‘YIMBY’ Grant Program

The $1.7 trillion spending bill approved by Congress earlier in December includes a significant first: $85 million in discretionary grant funding for local governments to remove obstacles to housing development.

2 minute read

December 29, 2022, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Multistory wood frame apartment building under construction against blue sky

Sundry Photography / Apartment construction

Congress passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill on December 20, sending the bill onto President Biden for a signature. The New York Times provides news coverage of the bill’s approval and CNN provides details of what’s included in the bill.

One program of particular interest to planners, the bill includes $85 million for a new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) planning incentive program advocated by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and National Apartment Association. According to an article by Paul Bergeron for Globe St, the “Yes In My Back Yard” program is designed “to help localities eliminate exclusionary policies, zoning and density restrictions, onerous parking requirements and other regulations.”

“The grant program will help fund efforts by local communities to update their zoning codes and community engagement to remove obstacles to affordable housing production and preservation,” adds Bergeron.

A statement by the NMHC describes the new grant program as the first federal YIMBY policy that will be enacted into law. U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Indiana) first introduced the Yes In My Backyard Act into Congress in 2019.

According to another article by Christian Britschgi for Reason, the YIMBY Act gained support from the Biden campaign in 2020, but also again after the Biden administration entered office. “In its Housing Supply Action Plan from May 2022, the White House also said it would retool discretionary transportation grant programs (worth a collective $6 billion) to incentivize liberalizing zoning reforms,” according to Britschgi.

Britschgi does caution that the $85 million in funding for the new program is unlikely to produce much progress on zoning reform.

“For starters, the bill would provide money to jurisdictions for identifying and removing barriers to affordable housing production. Once given, the money could be spent on improving "housing strategies," implementing "housing policy plans," and facilitating affordable housing production,” writes Britschgi.

“Taken together, that sounds like the program would pay jurisdictions just for drawing up plans for improving housing production, an approach that some housing economists have argued is ineffective.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2022 in Globe St

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