YIMBYtown and homes for allOctober 4, 2018
A terrific team of local volunteers, with support from the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, CHAPA, and other groups, recently organized and hosted Boston YIMBYtown 2018, a national conference of pro-housing activists. Over 320 participants registered for part or all of the four-day gathering.
The theme of the conference was equity and inclusion. Many of the Greater Boston activists have begun to identify as YIMBYs in order to combat local opposition to housing—especially affordable housing—that is too often motivated by a desire to keep low-income residents and people of color out of their communities. Massachusetts housing numbers show that only a small number of cities and towns are building the housing that the whole region needs. As a result of this systemic discrimination, we are now one of the most segregated regions in the United States.
However, there is increasing concern and backlash from low-income residents in Boston and elsewhere that today’s overheated market is pushing them out of their neighborhoods. A main topic of conversation at YIMBYtown was how to navigate these tricky politics and be respectful of differences among communities. There was a strong consensus among conference participants that the YIMBY movement needs to support local residents who are fighting displacement; promote more mixed-income and affordable housing; and fight for development and density in high-income neighborhoods that are excluding others.
A tremendous line-up of speakers addressed these issues and others, such as: understanding what “equity” really means and how to center it in your organization; how to promote affordable homeownership and build community wealth for low-income residents; how to tap into your personal experience to build connections with people from different backgrounds; and how to connect to affordable housing resources and campaigns. Speakers included:
- Kristen Jeffers, The Black Urbanist blogger and author
- Chrystal Kornegay, CEO of MassHousing
- Jarrid Green, author of Community Control of Land and Housing
- Prof. Edward Glaeser, Harvard University
- Joey Lindstrom, National Low Income Housing Coalition
- Rep. Chynah Tyler, State Representative from Roxbury
In addition, the conference planning committee secured scholarship funding so that local residents and others from around the country could attend at little or no cost.
These issues came to the fore when City Life/Vida Urbana and other local neighborhood groups came to Roxbury Community College with about 80 residents and activists (and a marching band!) to protest the rampant development of “luxury” housing in and around their neighborhoods. They took the stage and issued a challenge to the YIMBY movement to acknowledge their pain, recognize their leadership, and call on individuals to sign a pledge supporting their values and goals. They were respectful, we were respectful, and it was important to face residents directly. The local planning team hopes to continue the dialogue and find opportunities to support their work and collaborate.
Follow the conversation from the conference (and beyond) on Twitter using the hashtag #YIMBYtown or #YIMBY. We will continue to post photos, powerpoints, and other materials on the conference website as they become available.
Check out these thoughtful participant reflections from the conference:
- #lukespeaks on yimbytown
- Randy Shaw: 5 big takeaways from YIMBYtown
- Ryan Tanaka: Aesthetics and messaging of YIMBY: Moving beyond “Anti-anti”
- Janne Flisrand: Yes to Homes but I’m no YIMBY
- Tony Dutzik: Reflections on YIMBYtown: Beyond a zero-sum game?
And this selected news coverage:
- Boston Globe: Two gatherings, two visions for fixing Boston’s housing crisis
- Commonwealth Magazine: A clash of housing visions
- Bay State Banner: Housing activists clash while city tweaks goals
- Bay State Banner: 3 questions, Ed Glaeser, YIMBY champion
Finally, the conference ended with a powerful panel of officials title “Beyond our Backyards,” including Sheila Dillon of the City of Boston, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern, and DHCD Undersecretary Janelle Chan, moderated by Dana LeWinter from CHAPA. You can see the watch the panel filmed by CCTV here.