lass=”” >San Francisco’s YIMBY movement is pushing the city to build its way out of the housing crisis.
San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the country and has become the symbol of the nation’s housing crisis.
A booming jobs market and years of underdevelopment have led to skyrocketing real estate prices and rents in the region. In 2015, the Bay area added 64,000 jobs but built less than 5,000 housing units. The median home price is now over the million dollar mark and an average one-bedroom apartment rents for more than $3,500 a month.
The high cost has made it difficult for many residents to find affordable housing within the city. The problem represents a classic case of supply and demand—with more people moving to the region, more housing needs to be built. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), a non-partisan office that provides policy and budget analyses to lawmakers, agrees that the state needs to boost its housing supply to the tune of 100,000 units a year in coastal cities to meet current demand. It’s an idea that both free-market libertarians and regulation-friendly progressives agree on. So why can’t San Francisco get it done?
The answer lies in the city’s unique culture of permissions and regulations. NIMBYs (“not in my backyard”) have successfully organized against development in the region for decades by blocking new construction they deem to be a nuisance.
“We have so much neighborhood input here. More than anywhere else in the country,” says housing activist Sonja Trauss. “This public policy of whatever you do on your property being everybody’s business—how has that gone for us? What has that produced? Well, it’s produced a horrible housing shortage.”
The stubbornness of the NIMBYs has sparked a counter-YIMBY movement (“yes in my backyard”) among activists who believe the way out of the housing crisis is to build.
Trauss, the founder of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation (SF BARF), is one of the more visible members of the growing YIMBY movement in the city. She began her activism shortly after moving to the city from Philadelphia.
“Cities are incredible things,” says Trauss. “They’re just places where freedom is possible in a way that is just not as a possible in a small town. So I feel like San Francisco and the Bay area should be taking advantage of its opportunity to build a big city. Now is the time.”
Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Garcia and Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Joshua Swain. Music by Kevin MacLeod, Silent Partner, Riot, and MK2. Additional housing footage from the San Francisco Department of Planning. Berkeley City Council audio courtesy Eric Panzer. Images by Brooke Anderson / Flickr and San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation Facebook.
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