Blog Yes to People, Yes to Housing

Oct. 17, 2019

In 2014, I was working an entry level sales job. My rent was insane, and everyone I knew was struggling. We felt trapped. Everyone was debating moving, or staying in a bad situation, putting off having kids, commuting hours a day and destroying their lives…

Housing wasn’t the main topic of conversation — it was the *only* thing people were talking about. And so we became obsessive public comment people in support of housing — any housing.

It felt like we were doing something, but the scale of the problem was so overwhelming. And some days I was so angry. How could people have let it get this bad.

And at city hall … it was another world. It didn’t matter what every academic was saying, what every newspaper was saying, what every government issued report was saying. There was always a very particular reason why this housing proposal was bad.

When we would stand up as random members of the community and say we have a shortage of housing and we need more homes; When we stood up for every kind of housing: more apartments, more affordable housing, more supportive housing, more backyard cottages… the immediate reaction was “who is paying you to say this?”

Well, now I can say all of you.

But truly, it is a great honor to fight for more housing alongside all of you. This room gives me such hope. In the face of our the political obstacles, the ugliness that we sit through in hearings, that hope is important.

Outside of a community meeting a couple weeks ago, I spoke with a man who was just outraged at the idea of an apartment building near his home. I said, doesn’t it bother you that you’re discriminating and keeping people out of your community? He said he wasn’t discriminating. He actually said “we’re just keeping them out with high housing costs. It’s not discrimination”

And of course it is. Skyrocketing rents, homelessness, displacement, exclusionary zoning — they are as much an injustice today as redlining was. And we cannot stand for it.

There are those who want us all to just go away. They are comfortable, and change is bad, and someone else can take on the “burden” of new housing. Some other community will take on the “burden” of more people.

Housing is not a burden. Welcoming people into our communities makes them stronger. We have to end this system where every new person means someone was forced out.

YIMBY is the belief that we can welcome the stranger, we can build dense, vibrant, walkable communities — that we can learn from one another’s differences, that our children will thrive by being in schools with people who don’t look like them.

YIMBY is the unfinished work of racial and economic integration. It is recommitting ourselves to the idea that our children’s lives can be better than our own. It is part of what is necessary to save our planet.

I want to tell you that we can do it, because the truth is we have to. No one is coming to save us. And so we must save ourselves. There are no heroes, only groups of determined individuals committing themselves to change, committing ourselves to building the communities we wish we had been built for us. We will build a world where there is a home for everyone, where homelessness is an abomination that we got rid of.

And the truth is nothing is holding us back. Nothing except the smallness of our politics. And so we must make them bigger. We must make our political institutions rise to the necessity of this moment.

In every community there is someone who sees how the housing shortage is hurting a teacher, a firefighter, someone they love. Everyone is affected by this. Every time we raise our voice, people join us. And so I ask you all to raise your voices.

Yes to people.
Yes to housing.
Yes in our back yards.