Op-Ed: Overcoming a New NIMBYism

Rick Jacobus argues that those who block new development on social justice grounds aren't fighting to win long-term. Building is necessary, but with it should come robust affordable housing mandates.

Read Time: 1 minute

March 17, 2016, 10:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Tenderloin District

K M / Flickr

Rick Jacobus thinks vigorous development can eventually solve the housing crisis, but only if it comes with hefty affordable housing provisions. The first step is for all parties to agree that we should, in fact, be building more housing. 

Until recently, Jacobus writes, the term "NIMBY" applied to "middle-class or upper-class residents who resisted the location of affordable housing developments in their neighborhoods. What we are seeing now are movements of the poor and their advocates resisting the location of luxury-housing projects."

While activism can counter displacement in some neighborhoods, the effort to preserve places in amber may be doomed to fail. "We are in the middle of a once in a lifetime tectonic shift in consumer preferences regarding urban living." The well-off want to return to cities, and the new question has become: where to house the rich?

Jacobus rejects the notion that unmitigated free market development will let luxury housing "trickle down," preserving diversity. Instead, he envisions a strong combination of rent control and, even better, social housing in which public or nonprofit landlords keep rents low. These tactics should expand to protect one-third of new development, letting low-income residents share in an urban resurgence.  

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