I intend to argue that YIMBYs need to move left, not just talk to the left, if we are to remain a viable alternative to the status quo.
The YIMBY platform was written just over a year ago, in the movement’s nascence. It was left vague enough to be interpreted by other groups in various forms if they so chose to endorse it. It contains a litany of demands and one in particular feels as though it has been left behind:
Housing is Infrastructure.
I believe that housing is a human right. Housing must be treated as any other public good if we are to ever answer the housing question. Since housing is a human right, our city should be made to secure our right to it. This also means that if you already have housing, you should also be kept secure in that right by any means necessary. From this you can see the defenses made valid for rent control, just cause evictions, and even vacancy control, price controls, universal public housing, or abolition of rent.
Debate on the extent to which these policies are considered and enacted is necessary for us, but will only come to resolution once their respective bans are lifted at the state and federal level. Concurrent debate on concrete ways to ensure we continue to support housing our population growth is also necessary. Neither goal is mutually exclusive of the other, as many right-leaning YIMBYs claim. Advancing renters’ rights immediately is necessary to prevent displacement and economic duress. Allowing more housing is necessary to contain the current disaster and provide long-term relief.
Any housing advocate who understands the injustices forced on people of color, low-income people, and other marginalized groups through local housing and zoning policies will also understand the need for solutions tailored to redress these wrongs. To advance and protect housing as a human right, we need to use every tool at our disposal, rather than the myopic, singular focus of counter-revolutionary YIMBYs.
The Socialist YIMBY Platform
In order for YIMBYs to move left, we must give our neighbors space to be angry. We can’t speak for people of color when we’re mostly white; we also can’t speak for low income families when we’re not. What we can do, is recognize that structural oppression exists and is difficult to identify by its very nature; that The Market is imperfect and its failures affect those with the least means the most.
We must recognize that private capital is not the only way to build housing, and support steps that move us towards public housing and the abolition of rent. Public housing has a bad name in the United States, and rightfully so. We must reject this history and instead support a stronger platform of housing as public infrastructure.