The Codcast: YIMBYs take on NIMBYs

It has become almost axiomatic that communities will resist new housing development projects. They will generate unbearable traffic! There isn’t enough parking here! They’ll hurt property values! The developer wants to cram in too many units!

The list of horribles is endless, but the response can usually be summed up with one word, which is really an acronym: NIMBY.

While “not in my backyard” has become the default response to development proposals in many communities, in a few places NIMBY is starting to meet its match. YIMBY — which stands for “yes in my backyard” — is a fledgling national movement, concentrated largely in already densely populated and high-cost urban areas, that is pushing a very different message: We want to see more housing, more density, and a tempering of the run-up of housing prices in our community to make it more accessible to all, say YIMBY activists.

The Boston area has several YIMBY groups — in Somerville, Cambridge, Newton, and Jamaica Plain. Eric Herot and Meg Wood of JP YIMBY join the Codcast this week to preach a bit of the community-based, pro-growth gospel. They’re not out to carry water for developers, but Herot and Wood often support their projects because they say neighborhoods like theirs will benefit from more housing. The tensions that can set off are clear.

The YIMBY movement held a national conference last month in Oakland. Herot and several dozen Boston area YIMBY activists attended, thanks to the coordinating efforts of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance and a grant from The Boston Foundation. Herot says the Boston area had the largest delegation at the conference, which suggests the YIMBY movement has a real foothold here. Whether it can change the development conversation will be the real test.



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