The First Every YIMBY Conference

Madeline Kovacs
Wed, 06/29/2016 - 12:10pm

Yes in my Back Yard is gaining steam

Earlier this month, Portland for Everyone staff attended the first ever “YIMBY” (Yes in My Backyard!) conference, convened in Boulder, Colorado. YIMBY groups are popping up across the country in response to mounting housing shortages, resulting in insufficient housing supply and steeply climbing rents. Longstanding “NIMBY” policies, such as over-reliance on single-family zoning and other exclusionary zoning and land use policies, are partly responsible for trends that are quickly pricing lower- and even middle-income residents being priced out of their neighborhoods, and out of their cities. Hosted by local group A Better Boulder, YIMBY’s gathered to discuss ideas and strategies to promote more inclusive housing and urban development. 

The opening plenary speech was delivered by San Francisco BARF (Bay Area Renters Federation) founder Sonja Trauss. Many of the movements around the country have been inspired by her passion and work to bring in more housing options to the city’s core. We featured BARF in April’s Oregon Stories.

Seattle for Everyone’s Sara Maxana delivered a chilling keynote speech, challenging wealthier, single-family residents to open their neighborhoods to others: “Being the hero” for Sara in Seattle’s housing story means inviting more people to be her neighbors, join her school district, and access the city services that she has been able to utilize, such as transit and walkable retail districts. She humanized these issues and brought tears to the audience. We know this is more than smart planning – this is about being a better neighbor and community member.

Panels and discussions throughout the weekend focused on a variety of approaches, including mandatory housing affordability, something Oregon is only starting to move towards with the repeal of the ban on inclusionary zoning. Attendees took an in-depth look at the policies and politics of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, and others focused on leveraging data to tell the stories that can catapult residents into action. Two impromptu sessions also focused on the outsized presence of male voices in urbanist conversations, and how to better include people of color, low-income people, and create space for more voices to be heard as the YIMBY movement grows. Thoughtful questions that we hope inform next year’s conference. You can bet we’ll be there.

Lessons and inspiration from Boulder will certainly influence Portland for Everyone as we continue our work for abundant, diverse, and affordable housing options here in Portland.

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Photo Credit: YIMBYtown 2016 Group Photo by Torrie Fischer, Creative Commons