YIMBY movement

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poster from Abundant Housing Vancouver

YIMBY is an acronym for Yes In My Back Yard, coined in contrast to the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome, describing a point of view and various advocacy groups which support growth, new housing, new transportation infrastructure, and broad urban development generally. 

The term 'YIMBY' seems to have originally arisen in the U.S. waste-management industry in the 1980s to suggest an alternative view to NIMBY opposition then perceived as imperiling the siting and operation of waste plants. 

In the 2000s, YIMBY came be used informally to describe positive advocacy for urban development, and in 2007 the first YIMBY-named organization was formed, YIMBY Stockholm, an independent polical party network operating in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Oslo, and Uppsala

In 2015 in San Francisco, Sonja Trauss formed San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF) as an informal group, which led to the formation of SF YIMBY group and various affiliated organizations including YIMBY Action (a 501c4), CaRLA (a 501c3 focused on legal strategies for housing inclusion) and YIMBY political action committee). These have been among the most active and publicized YIMBY groups, but in 2016-17 YIMBY-affiliated groups arose in many other places, and a number of existing advocacy groups such as Better Boulder and A Better Cambridge affiliated themselves with the movement. 

The first US YIMBY conference was held in Boulder, Colorado, in June 2016, hosted by A Better Boulder. The second was held in Oakland, California, in July 2017, hosted by East Bay Forward (now East Bay for Everyone). An international conference, YIMBYcon, was held in Helsinki, Finland in 2016 and 2017.

 

Background

The term 'YIMBY' appears to have first been used in the U.S. waste-management industry in the 1980s, to propose a point of view accepting the necessity of needed facilities being located somewhere -- in contrast to 'NIMBY' activism which by then was seen as a serious impediment to siting or operating facilities. 

The earliest known usage of "YIMBY" was to mean "Yes in Many Back Yards." In a June 19, 1988 New York Times article, "Coping in the Age of 'Nimby,'" by William Glaberson, this was attributed to David L. Morell, "a former academic who had written about Nimby issues and who is now vice president for regulatory policy at the Environmental Systems Company, one of the leading toxic-waste disposal companies in the country":

"The company's Mr. Morell has his own acronym answer to Nimby: Yimby, or Yes, in many backyards. And in one form or another many analysts are talking about similar ways of making people understand that they must share the risks that go along with the benefits of modern life."


The earliest usage found so far for YIMBY meaning "Yes in My Backyard" is "Getting to YIMBY: Yes in My Backyard." by Elizabeth Kiser, World Wastes 35, no. 12 (December 1992): 38-41.  

In the urban simulation computer game SimCity4, released in 2003 -- and still the most popular of all SimCity releases -- 'YIMBY' is an attribute given to some residential or commercial building which generally have a positive effect on the environment around them. In SimCity 2013, "These buildings cause a happiness wave within the area surrounding it and cause Sims to have the 'We love the new city buildings!' thought." (according to Simcity fandom site - simcity.wikia.com/wiki/YIMBY). 

The founder of Newyorkyimby.com in 2011, Nikolai Fedak, later cited Simcity as a primary inspiration for his love of cities and development. [Rosenblum 2014]. 

A 2005 edit on the Wikipedia 'YIMBY'  page observed: 

"YIMBY is an acronym for Yes In My Back Yard, in contrast and opposition to the NIMBY phenomenon. Informal YIMBY coalitions exist in San Francisco, Los Angeles and elsewhere to provide community support for affordable and market-rate housing projects over the objections of NIMBY, BANANA and bureaucratic opponents."


The first organization to explicitly use 'YIMBY' in its name was YIMBY Stockholm, founded in 2007. 

Wikipedia (Swedish) page YIMBY,  translated to English, describes it thus:

"Yimby is an acronym for the English phrase Yes in my backyard , which is a counter reaction to the Nimby phenomenon, Not in my backyard . The term "Yimby" is linked to urban planning, which means that one is fundamentally positive about changes in its vicinity.

"Yimby is also an independent political party network, founded in Stockholm in 2007, which advocates physical development, densification and promotion of urban environment , and occurs in, among other things, Gothenburg, Oslo, Stockholm and Uppsala. The network criticizes several of the ideas that dominated urban development, especially during the second half of the 20th century, such as the spreading of the city, car dependence and the so-called " neighborhood planning," which meant that areas were planned as individual communities, rather than as parts of the larger city. The network also criticizes parts of the environmental movement and argues that a principle of resistance to densification and expansion of the city's urban forms is blocking the problem of exploration and dispersal of the city, which requires large natural areas and complicates the ability to build efficient public transport solutions . The network has also repeatedly criticized the lack of real parks in Stockholm, while there are many impediments in the form of unused green spaces."


In the US, Nikolai Fedak in 2011 founded Newyorkyimby.com blog tracking real-estate developments, and in San Francisco by 2014 activists Amy Farah Weiss and Sonja Trauss were separately using the title "SFYIMBY". 

In 2014 in San Francisco, Sonja Trauss formed San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF) as an informal group, which led to the formation of SF YIMBY group and various affiliated organizations including YIMBY Action (a 501c4), CaRLA (a 501c3 focused on legal strategies for housing inclusion) and YIMBY political action committee). These have been among the most active and publicized YIMBY groups, but in 2016-17 YIMBY-affiliated groups arose in many other places, and a number of existing advocacy groups such as Better Boulder and A Better Cambridge affiliated themselves with the movement. 

The first US YIMBY conference was held in Boulder, Colorado, in June 2016, hosted by A Better Boulder. The second was held in Oakland, California, in July 2017, hosted by East Bay Forward (now East Bay for Everyone). An international conference, YIMBYcon, was held in Helsinki, Finland in 2016 and 2017.

 

From Hazardous Waste to Housing

In earlier usage, the 'NIMBY' concept was perhaps more commonly applied to opponents of developments with some relatively well-defined, perceived nuisance threat: for example, a waste dump potentially handling hazardous materials. In the case of controversies over new housing development -- often a key concern of US YIMBY groups today -- the positions which YIMBY groups are advocating against often have a notable variety of stated or suspected motivations. For example, development resistance might be ascribed to protecting or raising home values, environmental protection, concerns for overloading infrastructure or schools, transportation or traffic issues, quality of life issues, a bargaining strategy to win concessions or community-group funding or tax revenues from developer, opposing gentrification, supporting gentrification, preventing greater diversity of residents, preserving greater diversity of residents, and so on.  

[Contrariwise, one might perhaps also say, development support might be ascribed to a notable variety of motivations..  developer profit, or reducing developer profit (i.e. expand development until marginal profitability is zero, or even push to overbuild and flood the market and lose money). Or opening and revitalizing the city, or invading and appropriating the city. and so on]. 

 

YIMBY organizations

see: YIMBY organizations directory.
 

Criticisms 

 

 

References 

See also