Progressives and environmentalists are increasingly coming around to the reality that new housing will advance their agenda.
Meaningful housing policy changes will be shaped by those who show up, but the composition of who is now showing up to support housing construction is refreshing. We were buoyed by an Op-Ed by Maya Rosas, a self-proclaimed idealistic, progressive urbanist and founder of the YIMBY Democratic Club in the San Diego region.
This identity wouldn’t ordinarily be associated with pro-housing policies, but Millennials like her represent the new faces of the “Yes In My Backyard” movement.
If you ask Maya, the YIMBY has a pretty succinct philosophy: more homes are good. Recognizing that the people most affected by a housing deficit are people with the least means, she says that supporting housing construction inexorably furthers progressive values and that land issues don’t always fall cleanly down partisan lines. Many forward-thinking progressives agree that affordable and equitable housing is achievable only through more housing, and these now include a growing chorus of environmentalists.
“You can’t legitimately call yourself an environmentalist unless you support dense housing in walkable neighborhoods with public transportation.”, observes Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), an unlikely architect of SB 35. The 2017 bill mandates municipalities to build more to keep up with demand or risk temporarily losing control of much of their entitlements process and is a lynch-pin in a prolific package of bills passed aimed to spur new housing in the Bay Area and beyond.
Wiener is an environmentalist and like Maya, a professed urbanist that seems to get that if development in cities is slowed down, houses will sprawl out over farmland and people will wind up making longer commutes and add to the carbon footprint. The Senator is spearheading another piece of legislation, SB 827, that would all but require that new housing near major transit hubs be mid-rise construction of at least four stories.
Enviros and developers are odd bedfellows, but a new generation of environmentalists are joining Senator Wiener in challenging the green’s status quo of opposing new development. As a testament to this, Sierra Magazine wrote an article that says housing – dense, near transit and green – can be a climate solution.
Although California has been a laboratory of archaic rent control laws, there is some evidence that the torch of sensible housing policy is being passed to a young and savvy group that can think on their feet. These energized groups stand to reshape the law and create experiments of their own, in favor of new housing and a pivot from the failed policy of rent control.
Landlords can use all hands on deck.