The Collapse of the YIMBY House of Cards

Housing Is A Human Right
3 min readNov 15, 2023

YIMBYism has hit a rough patch. “Yes In My Back Yard” built its reputation on a series of false premises that have been propped up by boatloads of Big Real Estate and Big Tech money. But the reckoning has arrived.

The core YIMBY belief, pushed by lobbying groups such as California YIMBY, is that building housing of any kind, no matter how expensive, will bring down the cost of housing. This wacky idea says that building an endless number of Ferraris will help people who can only afford a scooter. This experiment has been in full swing for several years now, and it has been a miserable failure.

Studies by Zillow and Harvard found that developers overwhelmingly build luxury housing and very little affordable housing for middle- and working-class residents. And while luxury buildings pop up everywhere throughout California, the number of homeless people continues to soar. A recent Stanford University study found that between 2014 and 2020, homelessness increased by 42 percent.

Homelessness is only the tip of the iceberg of California’s housing affordability crisis. Renters paying most of their income for rent and struggling to pay for food and other necessities is the largest part of the problem.

A report by the O.C. Register found that California has the most rent-burdened residents than any other state. As corporate real estate vultures descend on the state and gobble up private homes, more and more people become permanent renters at the mercy of robber baron real estate oligarchs.

Housing is more than just a place to lay your head. Where we live nurtures the community that feeds our human desire to belong and to be supported. The YIMBY trickle-down craze has resulted in rapid gentrification of working-class communities and communities of color.

YIMBYs’ contention that simply increasing the housing supply, no matter how unaffordable it may be, will bring down prices defies all logic and common sense. Plunking luxury buildings in the middle of working-class neighborhoods drives up all rents, and, as a result, destroys the fabric of those communities. The elderly person who relies on a neighbor for a ride to the doctor fades away. The multi-generational culture that nurtures community institutions is replaced by Teslas driving into underground garages.

YIMBYs might be more credible if they actually supported tenant protections. Instead, their trickle-down, luxury-housing push is directly responsible for displacement and the shrinking pool of available low-income units.

The unholy alliance between YIMBYs and Big Real Estate and Big Tech exposes their real interests — making cities safe for a latte crowd far removed from the gritty realities of city life. Follow the money that YIMBY relies on from Big Tech and Big Real Estate. It shows where their loyalties lie. Their total lack of support for rent control and housing justice — and their routine silence about the predatory business practices of Big Real Estate — only underscores the truth.

The YIMBY zombies no doubt will still roam the land, but stripped of any semblance of truth to back up their wacky notions, they are doomed to wind up on the trash heap of history as so many other fake movements have before them.

Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this article, is the advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.

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Housing Is A Human Right

Housing Is A Human Right is the housing advocacy division of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. We fight for what’s right.