Sonja Trauss

Executive Director, Yes In My Back Yard

Housing Story

I moved to the Bay Area in 2011, looking for work. I found a job right away, but housing was another story. I was able to stay with my dad’s cousin in El Cerrito before eventually moving in with two roommates in West Oakland. By 2014, I had been working in the bay for 3 years, mostly as a high school math teacher, but I still didn’t have any savings. The combination of low pay, high rent, and high transportation costs trapped me. I even considered moving back to my parents’ house in Philadelphia, but I couldn’t afford to move. What was incredible about the situation was that everyone was unhappy - even higher income renters I met were unhappy with their housing situation. The only people who seemed to be winning in this were homeowners, and they were complaining too - about too many new neighbors. I felt that both personally, and as a region, we had nothing to lose. The current situation was miserable and untenable and it had to change. So I started organizing!


In 2014, Sonja Trauss started organizing pro-housing renters in the Bay Area while working as a high school math teacher. She is a founder of the YIMBY movement in California. As Executive Director of Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY), Sonja leads YIMBY Law, our legal arm. Sonja also facilitates community organizing for housing projects that are compliant with state housing laws to be approved by local governments. Under Sonja’s leadership, YIMBY Law has won nine lawsuits since 2019.