Guest Editorial: Solving the Housing Crisis By Stopping NIMBYs

By Ronald Sampson

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Economics is a complex subject, but some aspects of it are incredibly simple. For instance, supply and demand; when supply is low and demand is high, prices will move higher. Alternatively, when you increase supply, prices drop. And with housing prices surging to incredible highs in the Valley, it seems fairly common-sense that one good way to counter this is to increase supply, i.e. build more housing.

However, whenever the conversation goes towards building more multi-family housing, the conversation is often dominated by NIMBYs who will say no to most any project, reasonable or not. Change isn’t always easy, so sometimes the path of least resistance is a simple, across-the-board “No!”. That is absolutely the wrong approach however.

That’s why I found this recent interview with Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin to be an incredibly good read; the story of a leader who confronted previous bans on multi-family housing (implemented primarily with racist intent). A leader who understood that pervasive issues such as homelessness demanded a different approach and a questioning of priors. 

Is Scottsdale City Council listening? Can someone send them that interview?

NIMBYs are forces in city council meetings across the country; well-organized, willing to pick through the details of any project, and amplify the message that growth is an unnecessary evil. What we need is a countering YIMBY force, as loud and well-organized as the NIMBYs, willing to demand an increasing housing supply, lower prices and better availability.

I have seen many Millennials rightly grousing about the unaffordability in the housing market, but it rarely seems to go past that; simply complaining. If they banded together and understood the power of their collective voice, they could make their voices heard in city council meetings across the Valley, and give our leaders a degree of cover against the well-organized NIMBY crowd.

Millennials need to make their voices heard, and it starts with pushing city councils to embrace more multi-family homes in their neighborhoods. We would be well served by no longer erring on the side of the NIMBY crowd, and instead err on the side of providing more availability in the way of pro-growth development policies. And city councils around the country need to start being less afraid of NIMBYs and more afraid of the homelessness issues that their shrill demands contribute to.