Here we gather FAQs which may be open (not yet answered) or previously answered (e.g. those from SFBARF, below). We welcome suggestions of new questions, or your new answer or other good answers you find to existing questions.
As discussed in Development Roadmap, one main aspect of YIMBYwiki is to analyze, or factor, topics and controversies into core, well-defined questions, with the aim of making discussions/response more productive. We believe that one way to better engage issues is to listen to and respond to the questions people are explicitly or implicitly asking, and explore how best to answer them both in words and in practices.
- 1 New/Open Questions
- 1.1 What is 'luxury' housing?
- 1.2 Does new housing or other development raise property values/prices locally?
- 1.3 Are fees, taxes, regulations, construction, and other costs just captured/reflected by land prices? Do changes in them therefore not generally affect development?
- 1.4 Is demand for housing effectively unlimited, in certain places like San Francisco, New York, or London?
- 1.5 What determines the price of housing?
- 1.6 What determines the cost of housing?
- 1.7 What is the effect of new housing on the overall price of housing?
- 1.8 Who should control what land is used for?
- 1.9 Who should get to live in our city?
- 1.10 If there is no way to build enough units for everyone, why should we build market-rate housing for what appears to be only for the rich?
- 2 General
- 3 FAQs from SFBARF
- 3.1 We're a 7x7 mile city, so doesn't that mean we don't have room for any more people?
- 3.2 Doesn't San Francisco's earthquake risk make tall buildings unwise?
- 3.3 If I support more housing density, does that make me a conservative? Isn't the progressive viewpoint to oppose new housing?
- 3.4 Why should someone who doesn't live in a neighborhood have any standing to advocate for more housing there?
- 3.5 New construction wouldn't look like the other houses around here
- 3.6 Isn't it bad for the environment to bring more people to San Francisco?
- 3.7 If we add more residents to San Francisco, won't we run out of water?
- 3.8 BARF receives money from people, so doesn't that mean their integrity is compromised?
- 4 FAQs from other YIMBY organizations
What is 'luxury' housing?
Does new housing or other development raise property values/prices locally?
Are fees, taxes, regulations, construction, and other costs just captured/reflected by land prices? Do changes in them therefore not generally affect development?
Is demand for housing effectively unlimited, in certain places like San Francisco, New York, or London?
What determines the price of housing?
What determines the cost of housing?
(i.e. the cost to create new housing units).
What is the effect of new housing on the overall price of housing?
Who should control what land is used for?
Who should get to live in our city?
If there is no way to build enough units for everyone, why should we build market-rate housing for what appears to be only for the rich?
What is your relationship with developers? Aren't you developer shills?
Almost all YIMBY groups are membership organizations made up of unpaid volunteers and neighbors who are just trying to get enough housing built to house themselves, their friends and family, and the less fortunate.
There is often an unstated concern in this question about the influence of paid developers which should not be scorned. It's important to listen to and acknowledge people's concerns about development. The United States has a long and painful relationship with destructive and racist development policies that have wiped out poor, often nonwhite neighborhoods. A shared YIMBY vision is encouraging more housing at all income levels but within a framework of concern for those with the least. We believe we can accomplish this without a return to the inhumane practices of the Robert Moses era, such as seizing land, bulldozing neighborhoods, or poorly conceived "redevelopment" efforts that were thinly disguised efforts to wipe out poor, often minority neighborhoods.
Some YIMBY groups take donations from developers in order to pay their staff or fund their organizing activities. Ohers don't. There are a range of views about what best to do and how best to disclose or discuss it, see this thread "Developer shills" on YIMBYtown national list.
It's also important to remember that today, there are many different types of developers and involved parties, including:
- government agencies developing land they own,
- landowners and homeowners developing on their own land;
- non-profit Community Housing Development Organizations (US Dept of Housing & Urban Development's term);
- local developers;
- homebuilders, contractors, and labor that doesn't usually own land;
- large private developers, and
- the large 'publics' (publicly-listed real estate and development companies).
These parties often have widely varying incentives and missions. Developers do not by default have agendas that are nefarious, but moreover, YIMBYs and developers are not the same thing.
Is making housing affordable inherently opposed to making it a good investment or wealth-building?
This is sometimes said. For example:
- Cortright, Joe. "Why America can’t make up its mind about housing." City Observatory. 16.5.2017. http://cityobservatory.org/why-america-cant-make-up-its-mind-about-housing-2/.
- Hertz, Daniel. "Housing can’t be a good investment and affordable." City Observatory, 20.7.2016. http://cityobservatory.org/housing-cant-be-a-good-investment-and-affordable/.
However, usually these analyses just consider the change in asset value of a house, compared to that of other investments such as stocks, and argue that the value must go up a lot for homeownership to be a better investment than alternatives. But this is a quite incomplete analysis, because owning a home provides steady, large benefits either in rent earned or rent avoided -- this is comparable to large dividend pay-outs on a pure financial asset, which would be priced into its valuation, not just the change in underlying asset value.
To put that another way, homeownership may a good investment or wealth-building compared to the alternatives, i.e. renting. Particularly because many programs exist to assist first-time or lower-income homebuyers, and home financing is generally strongly supported by US government programs such as Federal Housing Administration, FannieMae, and FreddyMac mortgage financing and mortgage guarantees, and IRS tax deductions for mortage interest, exemption from capital gains on home sales, etc.
Finally, making housing affordable and accessible need not be done by reducing the value of all housing. Housing policy can be and often is redistributive, such that housing is made more cheaply available to e.g. first-time homebuyers, and low-income households; potentially funded by the rise in value in other households' property, e.g. via property or transfer or land-value tax.
Aren't NIMBYs and YIMBYs basically the same thing? Both are trying to control the housing around them.
A: The key difference is that NIMBYs try to restrict what other people are allowed to do with the land they own, and YIMBYs work to lessen those restrictions. YIMBYism is the "pro-choice" of housing.
The reason NIMBYism is bad is that there's something everyone agrees we need (in this case, housing, but it could be a school or a bus depot) but nobody wants it near them, and if we indulge that reaction, everyone prevents it from being built near them, and ththus, at all. In other words, "If we all acted like NIMBYs, we'd have no schools."
That syndrome doesn't apply to YIMBYism; if we all were YIMBYs, we'd have lots of schools / housing / etc, and life would be great.
FAQs from SFBARF
We're a 7x7 mile city, so doesn't that mean we don't have room for any more people?
San Francisco's population density is 7,000 people per square kilometer. There are many beautiful, beloved cities throughout the world that manage to accommodate far greater density numbers:
- Barcelona: 16,000
- Buenos Aires: 14,000
- Central London: 13,000
- Manhattan: 25,846
- New York City (overall): 10,100
- Singapore: 7,600
- Paris: 22,000
- Central Tokyo: 14,500
[Here's a map of the zoning ceilings throughout San Francisco.](http://i.imgur.com/Tn7CSTX.jpg) Every yellow block in that picture is zoned 40-X, which means that buildings taller than four stories are not welcome. If we raised that to six stories (as is the norm throughout most of Paris), we could easily accommodate hundreds of thousands of new residents.
Doesn't San Francisco's earthquake risk make tall buildings unwise?
No; in fact, many of the tallest buildings in the world are located in the seismically active region known as the "Pacific Ring of Fire".
For example, [Taipei 101](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taipei_101) is 1,671 feet tall (101 stories!) and since its construction in 2004 has proven its stability over the course of seven earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 6.2 to 7.0.
The [Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Metropolitan_Government_Building), built in 1991, is 48 stories tall and has endured 25 earthquakes ranging from 6.6 to 9.0, including six greater than 7.5.
The [Petronas Towers](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petronas_Towers) are 1,483 feet tall (88 stories), and since their completion in 1996 have survived 53 earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 6.6 to 9.2.
Even right here in California, there are [countless tall buildings](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_California) built throughout the state.
This is a solved problem.
If I support more housing density, does that make me a conservative? Isn't the progressive viewpoint to oppose new housing?
Here are some definitions straight out of the dictionary:
- Conservative: *a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes*
- Progressive: *a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas*
- Liberal: *open to new behavior or opinions*
If someone is looking to keep a neighborhood as-is, believes it was perfect the day they arrived, and that proposed changes to it must be stopped, they're patently a conservative. Many people who were anti-establishment in the 1960s and 1970s turned conservative once they *became* the establishment. They just don't want to admit it to themselves.
Think of the people Bob Dylan was speaking to when he sang, *"Come gather ’round people / Wherever you roam / And admit that the waters / Around you have grown"* and *"Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call / Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall / For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled"* and *"Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command / Your old road is rapidly agin’ / Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand / For the times they are a-changin’"*. These people to whom he was singing, were they not conservatives? And do they not sound just like the voices that seek to obstruct and delay the construction of new housing throughout the city?
Why should someone who doesn't live in a neighborhood have any standing to advocate for more housing there?
If you take a look at [a map of all neighborhoods within a 30-minute commute of the city's downtown core](http://www.mapnificent.net/sanfrancisco/#/?lat0=37.793575045725184&lng0=-122.39584904847948&t0=30&lat=37.78027965816778&lng=-122.39602070985643&zoom=12), you can see that it covers 85% of the city, plus Oakland, Berkeley, Orinda, San Leandro and South San Francisco. All these places are catering to the same workers; they're all potential homes for people who work in downtown SF. In other words, their rental markets are all tied together; a person struggling to pay their rent any of the above neighborhoods will be impacted by what gets built in all the other ones.
Therefore, a person who lives in any of these places has a stake in what goes on in any of the other ones. And a person who doesn't live there, but *wants to*, has an even greater stake. Whether or not they get to fulfill their dream of living in the Bay Area depends on whether we build more housing.
New construction wouldn't look like the other houses around here
First off, would you really want to live in a "Little Boxes on the Hillside" world where all the buildings look the same?
But more importantly, do you really feel that your aesthetic preference is more important than someone else having a home?
Isn't it bad for the environment to bring more people to San Francisco?
If we prevent someone from moving to San Francisco, they don't evaporate. They end up living somewhere else, where they will almost certainly exert a greater negative impact on the environment than if we made a spot for them around here.
- Here, there's a great deal of public transit. Much of it is electric. Elsewhere, they would likely need to get around by car.
- Here, we don't need much heat, and few homes have air conditioners. Many other parts of the US require heat for half the year and air conditioning the other half.
- Concentrating people in cities, instead of sprawling them out across the land, leaves more of the natural environment untouched and undeveloped.
- "[San Francisco residents use the least amount of water per day compared with the rest of the state - 49 gallons on average as opposed to 100 statewide.](" http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/California-drought-S-F-leads-state-in-water-5194523.php)%22
- ...and now it's [down to 45.7](http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-residents-praised-for-using-least-water-in-5870159.php), and still the lowest in all of California.
- "[Urbanization reduces population growth](" http://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/energy/environment/want-to-save-the-environment-build-more-cities)%22, which diminishes the environmental effects of global overpopulation.
If we add more residents to San Francisco, won't we run out of water?
The average San Franciscan uses just [45.7 gallons of water per day, the lowest in all of California](http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-residents-praised-for-using-least-water-in-5870159.php). And residents of **new** San Francisco buildings use even less than that, since modern building code mandates the strictest water-conservation standards.
To put that in perspective, California agriculture uses 23,000,000,000 gallons per day; if they reduced their usage by just 0.1% (in other words, to 99.9% of its current amount), it would free up enough water to cover more than 500,000 new San Franciscans.
And see the previous answer, too: People who don't get to live in San Francisco will move to another part of the state, and since every other part of the state uses more water than San Francisco, this will have a net effect of *increasing* the state's water consumption.
BARF receives money from people, so doesn't that mean their integrity is compromised?
[BARF does receive donations.](http://upstart.bizjournals.com/entrepreneurs/hot-shots/2015/03/30/pro-density-sfbarf-yelp-jeremy-stoppelman.html?page=all) This is not unusual; virtually every group involved in the San Francisco housing debate is donor-supported; here are links directly to their donation-solicitation pages:
- [The Affordable Housing Alliance](http://www.affordablehousingalliance.com/donate/)
- [The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project](http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/donations.html)
- [Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association](http://www.barbaryneighbors.org/#!individual-membership/ct4n)
- [The Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods](http://www.csfn.net/CSFN_Sponsors_Benefactors.html)
- [Corbett Heights Neighbors](http://www.corbettheights.org/p/welcome.html)
- [Greater West Portal Neighborhood Association](http://www.gwpna.org/about/donate)
- [Grow Potrero Responsibly](http://growpotreroresponsibly.com/donate/)
- [The Housing Rights Committee of SF](http://www.hrcsf.org/membership.html)
- [San Francisco Beautiful](http://sfbeautiful.org/donate/)
- [The San Francisco Tenant's Union](http://www.sftu.org/membership.html)
- [San Francisco Tomorrow](http://sftomorrow.org/join-us)
- [The Telegraph Hill Dwellers](http://www.thd.org/donate-to-thd/)</textarea>
FAQs from other YIMBY organizations
Jamaica Plain YIMBY (Boston)