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senate Bill S. 1919

Should Communities be Required to Explain the Reasoning for Not Adopting Housing Policies to Increase Affordability & Address Discrimination?

Argument in favor

Lack of adequate housing stock, especially in major coastal cities, is pushing people out of the communities they want to live in and causing rent prices to increase astronomically in certain places. While the federal government can’t affect local regulations directly, it can impose more accountability and transparency about zoning decisions through this bill and possibly “name and shame” localities that use regulations and zoning as tools of housing discrimination.

Ellen's Opinion
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08/05/2019
Yep. Remember you answer to the American people. You need to explain everything
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KansasTamale's Opinion
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08/06/2019
Housing problems is a very real thing and every city & state should be encouraging the construction of really affordable nice housing for those who live on minimum wage. Every person deserves to have a home.
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Charles's Opinion
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08/07/2019
Transparency is key! Affordable housing is needed.
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Argument opposed

Given the lack of enforcement mechanism, this is a toothless bill that likely won’t achieve much, if anything, in the way of real change. There’s also no need for it in light of the fact that the White House has established a council to study the affordable housing crisis and the YIMBY movement’s strong momentum on its own. Finally, issues with YIMBYism itself — especially its marginalization of established low-income minority communities — is a concern.

JTJ's Opinion
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08/05/2019
Stop redistributing money we don’t have. Allow communities to fund themselves and develop as they see fit.
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ConservativeGuy's Opinion
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08/05/2019
I live in a fairly affluent community. The addition of “affordable” housing in our market would have an adverse effect on our home values. I don’t support that.
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jacklhasa's Opinion
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08/05/2019
This kind of bill is very easily open to abuse. No Cost Estimate, and no details on what exactly will be done, once in place. It’s a hollow write up, with no effort put into actually explaining the reasoning, implementation, enforcement, and result.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
    IntroducedJune 20th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 1919?

This bill — the Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act — would require Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients to go on the record explaining why they aren’t adopting specific pro-affordability and anti-discriminatory housing policies. Additionally, it would encourage local governments to eliminate restrictions on home businesses and AirBnB-style short-term rentals.

This bill wouldn’t direct localities on specific policies to implement; it would merely require them to detail their rationales for choosing not to cut certain land use regulations and provide more transparency for citizens, lawmakers, academics and others to understand (and critique, when called for) these decisions.

Impact

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients; local zoning decisions; home businesses; AirBNB-style short-term rentals; and YIMBYism.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1919

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Todd Young (R-IN) introduced this bill to shed light on discriminatory land use policies, encourage localities cut burdensome regulations, and bring a new level of transparency to the community development process

“Burdensome and discriminatory local zoning and land use policies drive up housing costs in communities across America. These policies exacerbate the housing affordability crisis and stifle the ability of Americans to move to areas of opportunity. My legislation will require cities, towns, and rural areas across America to face this reality under a new level of transparency and encourage them to cut these harmful regulations.”

Up for Growth Action supports this bill. Its executive director, Mike Kingsells, says

“Up for Growth Action stands ready to help Sen. Young and his colleagues eliminate exclusionary zoning and other artificial barriers to housing that that perpetuate inequity. Many of these regulations have shameful roots in racism, and today they contribute to the housing shortage and affordability crisis that impacts large parts of the country.”

Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has expressed support for YIMBY proposals on multiple occasions, including on a June 2019 trip to Minneapolis during which he made public comments criticizing single-family zoning’s effects and encouraging more local governments to follow Minneapolis’ example of eliminating single-family zoning (which the city did in its 2040 Comprehensive Plan) as part of its efforts to address homelessness: 

“The correlation seems very strong: The more zoning restrictions and regulations, the higher the prices and the more homeless people. So, armed with that knowledge, we have to work with these various places. And I don’t think there’s anybody that wants to see homelessness and squalor. We just have to start utilizing the facts and utilizing the evidence to create the policies.”

The Trump White House has made efforts to address affordable housing. On June 25, 2019, President Trump issued an executive order establishing a White House Council on eliminating regulatory barriers to affordable housing. 

The order charged the council with investigating the regulatory barriers that hinder housing development, defined as “overly restrictive zoning and growth management controls; rent controls; cumbersome building and rehabilitation codes; excessive energy and water efficiency mandates; unreasonable maximum-density allowances; historic preservation requirements; overly burdensome wetland or environmental regulations; outdated manufactured-housing regulations and restrictions; undue parking requirements; cumbersome and time-consuming permitting and review procedures; tax policies that discourage investment or reinvestment; overly complex labor requirements; and inordinate impact or developer fees.”

In September 2016, the Obama White House published a policy paper, the Housing Development Toolkit, using then-unprecedented YIMBY rhetoric to call on local governments to rethink their zoning laws. The administration called for higher-density developments, speedier permitting and fewer restrictions on accessory dwelling units (e.g., basements and garage apartments), all of which it argued would help address homelessness and rising rent costs. 

David Garcia, a researcher at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California Berkeley, says the complex American development approval process leads to higher costs and length delays for new construction and ultimately less housing being constructed. He observes, “In America we've created this system where every single project needs to be poked and prodded and examined before we've given it a thumbs-up to build and have more people to live in our communities.” While Garcia concedes that these requirements may be necessary, he also contends that it’s important to ask “whether or not they’re in line with the goal of actually building more housing.”

Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, a coalition of affordable housing and community economic development advocates in San Francisco, condemns YIMBYism’s “neoliberal deregulatory worldview”:

“[YIMBYism] tells people who want our homes that they deserve, by virtue of their whiteness and their status as part of a young college-educated elite, to get them. And there lies the genius of this narrative. An agenda for building up the power base of the neoliberal right is not going to get too far in liberal beachheads like San Francisco or New York using the traditional Republican platform. It needs a new story that appeals to young millennials, and it has found it in the “pro-housing” language of the YIMBYs. But in the end, it’s pushing the same underlying principles: the way to a more efficient future is to destroy belief in regulation, public investment, and democratic participation, whether the arena is charter schools or health care or housing affordability. But this story is as thin as the next market crash. We know ‘we’ did not underbuild for decades. It is we, in fact, who built these cities; we who stayed in these neighborhoods while their grandparents fled to racially exclusive suburbs; we who welcomed our brothers and sisters fleeing from Jim Crow and NAFTA and death squads and queer bashing; we who created the urban cultures they so desire; we who continue to fight for cities that center people and homes and communities and culture and environment; we who had and still have the vision of a city that continues to change and evolve, but always, always, is built on democracy. Our vision includes everyone. To continue to build this city for everyone will require new housing, yes, and will require new models to replace the suburban single-family model that collapsed in the financial crisis of 2008. But unless our vision is to introduce new resegregated urban regions with cities exclusively for the rich, and the poor displaced to the suburban peripheries, we will have to work together on an agenda that is the antithesis of the neoliberal deregulatory worldview espoused by much of the YIMBY leadership. We must embrace market regulation, dedicated revenues for and deep public investment in affordable housing, and true democratic participation.”

This bill doesn’t have any cosponsors and is supported by Up for Growth Action.

Given the lack of enforcement mechanism, this bill has been called relatively toothless compared to legislation Democratic senators introduced to address the housing affordability crisis in the 115th Congress. Last Congress, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill, the Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity Act (HOME) Act of 2018, which would have required HUD grantees to actually demonstrate they were loosening zoning regulations in order to receive federal money. Additionally, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)’s housing bill in the 115th Congress, the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, would have established a $10 billion grant program that would pay local governments who reformed their zoning codes to allow for more housing and allowed them to use that money on whatever they wanted.


Of NoteHousing construction per household is at its lowest level in 60 years. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, the U.S. built 260,000 too few homes to keep pace with demand in 2018. The combination of low housing stocks, high demand, and stringent restrictions on new development in coastal cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York has led to acute housing affordability problems in these areas.

“Yes in My Backyard,” or “YIMBY,” is the inverse of “Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY).The movement and phrase both originate from Toronto, Canada in 2006. YIMBY advocates support urban development to bring rents down and believe overly restrictive local zoning rules are contributing to depressing housing supplies and higher rents. 

Matthew Lawlor, an attorney specializing in real estate law in Boston, describes five characteristics of YIMBYism. He finds it:

  1. Is intensely local, with grassroots organizations playing a major role in the movement and advocacy work tending to remain local, rather than regional or national;
  2. Arises in response to specific trends in the local population and housing market; 
  3. Secondarily, arises as a specific response to NIMBYism;
  4. Pulls from a broad spectrum of people who are concerned about various aspects of urban places, including affordable housing, urbanism and active mobility (i.e., promoting walking, cycling and transit); and
  5. Is generally an “organizing wing” of the New Urbanism, which recognizes that good development projects vocal neighborhood support. 

Sonja Trauss, director of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, describes YIMBYs as “advocate[s] for housing” who “believe that not having enough housing to accommodate newcomers is terrible public policy that leads to displacement.” She adds

“YIMBYs want there to be neighborhoods of all varying levels of affordability close to job centers, so people can participate in the city’s economy. Whatever your situation is, we think you should be able to live in the city center if you want to… If you are in a growing metro area, like San Francisco, there will be times when housing development is proposed in your neighborhood. Being a YIMBY means piping up and supporting that development at neighborhood meetings, or by emails to the government.”

The Atlantic reports that across the U.S., YIMBY groups have found success in “appealing to people’s sense of equity and fairness.” Gabriel Metcalf, president and CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), says this strategy is especially effective with progressives

“I think there are more people understanding housing as a social-justice issue. While they might not like their communities changing with higher-density buildings, more people understand that they are necessary to live up to our values as progressives.”

Despite the rise of YIMBY sentiment, opposition to construction remains. In July 2017 the Atlantic reported that “[t]hroughout the Bay Area, and the country, there’s still significant resistance to building housing in many expensive communities.” As an example, it cited a May 2017 meeting in Menlo Park, California over a proposal to meet 150 affordable housing units, which was “met with typical NIMBYism.”

Writing for In These Times’ June 2018 issue, Toshio Meronek pointed out that YIMBYism as it’s currently practiced in the Bay Area is a “deeply polarizing force” that has sidelined the work of established housing advocacy groups fighting against working-class communities of color’s displacement. Meronek reports, “In San Francisco, these housing advocates are wary of the YIMBYs’ free-market bent, particularly when the movement is made up of so many young, white tech workers” who aren’t always sensitive to established minority communities’ concerns.

Maria Zamudio, an organizer with the Plaza 16 Coalition, an anti-gentrification group based in San Francisco’s Mission District, tells a personal story about her eventual disillusionment with San Francisco’s YIMBY movement. When she first saw the term YIMBY in 2016, she was interested: although suspicious of the group’s “homogenous whiteness,” she though the campaign could help demystify complex issues such as land use and zoning. However, she came to sour on the YIMBY movement and to see the YIMBY ethos as an oversimplification that ignores development’s racist history. She now believes the YIMBY movement “is about developers and speculators who are starting to get a bad rap and need to rebrand themselves.”

More broadly, many anti-gentrification and displacement groups argue that the new development YIMBYs advocate threatens their communities. In California, a statewide YIMBY group’s efforts to pass a controversial bill going after single-family zoning was fiercely opposed by organizations representing low-income communities of color, some of which accused the YIMBYs of having a white privilege problem and others which criticized the YIMBYs for being too cozy with the Bay Area’s tech industry (which funds much of of the Bay Area’s YIMBY activity).

In response to these criticisms, YIMBY groups contend that any new housing is better than none at all. In a September 14, 2017 meeting at the San Francisco Planning Commission in which she argued in favor of a proposed 75-unit development in the San Francisco Mission that was intended to be mostly market rate units, Trauss pointed out that the people who’d live in the unit would “live somewhere,” and eventually displacing “someone somewhere else” in the absence of that particular development because “demand doesn’t disappear.”


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / shauni)

AKA

Yes In My Backyard Act

Official Title

A bill to require certain grantees under title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 to submit a plan to track discriminatory land use policies, and for other purposes.

    Yep. Remember you answer to the American people. You need to explain everything
    Like (29)
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    Stop redistributing money we don’t have. Allow communities to fund themselves and develop as they see fit.
    Like (18)
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    I generally support the idea of publicly disclosing why some areas would be zoned in ways that appear to be discriminatory in nature. I think it can be a strong force in bringing about change. I do have a concern, however. I can see a misspelled word or a poorly phrased rationale providing fodder for 'ambulance chasing' lawyers filing huge class action suits that could well bankrupt a city and would improve nothing but the incomes of lawyers good at convincing sympathetic juries. I think for this to truly be informative and useful, there needs to be some clear restrictions on use of such reporting in class-action-like litigations. Otherwise it is only a lose-lose proposition for a community trying to do the right thing but faced with extended and ongoing legal bills, community destroying judgements and would certainly encourage a less than honest response.
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    Housing problems is a very real thing and every city & state should be encouraging the construction of really affordable nice housing for those who live on minimum wage. Every person deserves to have a home.
    Like (12)
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    I live in a fairly affluent community. The addition of “affordable” housing in our market would have an adverse effect on our home values. I don’t support that.
    Like (11)
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    This kind of bill is very easily open to abuse. No Cost Estimate, and no details on what exactly will be done, once in place. It’s a hollow write up, with no effort put into actually explaining the reasoning, implementation, enforcement, and result.
    Like (9)
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    Block grants? More debt? Um, do I get money when I cant pay my taxes? I DONT EVEN HAVE A MORTGAGE! “Required to tell?” Tell who? The feds? What the hell for? STOP GIVING OUT MONEY, you are not a bank! Then no one has to tell you anything but thats not what you want is it? You really want to control every part of what the states and people do and receiving money from you comes with strings borrowing money from anyone makes you a slave so STOP MAKING SLAVES OUT OF FREE PEOPLE, we are NOT your servants, you were to be ours!!! Man, you guys are like kindergarteners having to be told when to poop and to take our nap! GO HOME! Shut down the government and stop spending more and more money!!!! The money was our NOT YOURS! No were in debt to the FEDERAL RESERVE GLOBALIST BANKERS? Do you not see this is destroying our nation? DUH?!!!
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    I don't know what JimK said, but I’m with him on this one...He always makes sense. 🤔
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    Government over-reach. If there is no plan or provision to DO SOMETHING with the data you collect, then there is no basis to collect it. Additionally, “affordable” has a broad range and is not relevant in every community.
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    Bully tactics to enforce a vauge, poorly written law that doesn't improve anything.
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    Very good point, jimK!
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    There is a lot wrong with this entire concept. Communities may not be appropriate for “affordable housing”. If the economics don’t fit, trying to force it just results in absurd outcomes and effective waste of money that could be more useful in other areas. Home business issues? Depends on the local impact. Air BnB? That’s another area worthy of separate and deep discussion.
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    I hope Dr Carson will be staying on for a second term, he is doing an outstanding job with common sense approaches to help people help themselves and get off the government handouts. #MAGA
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    No forget this for a while. Concentrate on the infinitely more important matters we are facing. Trillions in debt...WTF!?
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    Transparency is key! Affordable housing is needed.
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    The people should see all of the underhanded things that go on in the federal government establishment swamp and how they enrich themselves there friends and family and those that donate to them. Drain the establishment swamp
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    How about looking into how high houses have skyrocketed in the last 15-20 years? How Realtors and the mortgage companies and also the builders are so lock step with each other. Appraisals come in so very very high. Average Realtors make anywhere from 3-6 Percent per sale. Figure out how much money you would make on a $250,000.0 dollar home you sold or bought. Greedy people if you ask me. Start where the money is at.
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    Transparency is critical to any democracy. The big money interests who want to control these funds don't like having to explain how they put profits over people, but they do. And we all need to hold them accountable, even the politicians who take their bribes, uh "campaign donations"!
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    Don’t ruin the landscape of smaller communities with large ugly buildings. You should live where you can afford. You shouldn’t live where you can’t afford but just want to live their. That’s called capitalism you work hard you can live there one day. It should be gifted to you by the government.
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    Not your job to babysit!! Stay out of it. Government had their chance at 'housing policies'. You work for us not babysit us. We will hold our people accountable in our own way. Stay out of it, servant.
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