From Suburban NIMBYism to YIMBYism?

Authors: Christopher Niedt*, Hofstra University
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: housing, race, redevelopment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Washington 1, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Local NIMBY movements, and specifically race- and class-based resistance to housing and school integration, have been common enough within the U.S. suburbs that NIMBYism itself carries suburban connotations. Yet recently coalitions of planning professionals, Smart Growth advocates, government housing agencies, and foundations have successfully pressed for denser multi-family development and redevelopment plans, often justified by broad “sustainability” goals. These plans have placed them in conflict with both community development- and integration-oriented housing organizations (Goetz, 2017). Like the community developers, suburban YIMBY coalitions propose concentrated reinvestment, but without the depth of affordability required to protect against displacement. Like fair housing groups, the YIMBYs recognize the necessity of increasing acceptance of rental housing within the suburbs generally, while in practice they tend to concentrate it within areas of existing racial/ethnic and class diversity – and again, at rents that may limit new construction’s contribution to inclusion. In this paper, I explore how this conflict has manifest on Long Island, a suburban region where concerns about the “youth drain” (tacitly, of white professionals) and an aging population affect both how affordable housing is discursively reconstructed, and how policies constrain access to new construction in practice. In this region, at least, suburban politics has pulled YIMBYism back towards the fall-back position that will be familiar to observers of affordable housing conflict – a SKIMBYism, Seniors and (“Our”) Kids in My Back Yard.

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