The exorbitant costs of urban housing and the widening gap in income inequality are fueling a combative new movement in cities around the world. A growing number of influential activists aren't waiting for new public housing to be built. Instead, they're calling for more construction and denser cities in order to increase affordability.
Yes to the City: Millennials and the Fight for Affordable Housing (Princeton UP, 2022) offers an in-depth look at the "Yes in My Backyard" (YIMBY) movement. From its origins in San Francisco to its current cadre of activists pushing for new apartment towers in places like Boulder, Austin, and London, Max Holleran explores how urban density, once maligned for its association with overpopulated slums, has become a rallying cry for millennial activists locked out of housing markets and unable to pay high rents. Holleran provides a detailed account of YIMBY activists campaigning for construction, new zoning rules, better public transit, and even candidates for local and state office. YIMBY groups draw together an unlikely coalition, from developers and real estate agents to environmentalists, and Holleran looks at the increasingly contentious battles between market-driven pragmatists and rent-control idealists. Arguing that advocates for more housing must carefully weigh their demands for supply with the continuing damage of gentrification, he shows that these individuals see high-density urbanism and walkable urban spaces as progressive statements about the kind of society they would like to create. Chronicling a major shift in housing activism during the past twenty years, Yes to the City considers how one movement has reframed conversations about urban growth.
Stephen Pimpare is director of the Public Service & Nonprofit Leadership program and Faculty Fellow at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.
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