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February 10, 2021  

Does Increasing Available Housing Cause Gentrification?

February 10, 2021

One of the arguments against YIMBYism—YIMBY stands for “Yes in My Backyard,” a response to NIMBY (“Not in My Backyard”)—is that adding housing units in a neighborhood will actually increase housing scarcity, because, in the words of journalist Nathan J. Robinson, “we’re luring rich people from elsewhere to our city.” This scenario would be the housing equivalent of the “induced demand” phenomenon seen with traffic, whereby expanding road capacity induces more people to drive, quickly negating the benefits of the expansion.

In an article last month, Matthew Yglesias, took on the induced demand objection against YIMBYism. (Yglesias was also a guest on the Strong Towns podcast last month.) He says the induced demand critique “fails on four scores”:

  • It is empirically false, at least most  of the time.

  • Accepting its logic would counsel against all efforts to improve quality of life.

  • If it were true, it still wouldn’t follow that new construction is bad.

  • It misconstrues what the YIMBY proposal is in the first place.

Yglesias’s article is the topic of this week’s episode of Upzoned, with host Abby Kinney, an urban planner in Kansas City, and regular co-host Chuck Marohn, the founder and president of Strong Towns. Abby and Chuck discuss the argument that increased housing worsens housing scarcity, where Strong Towns aligns with YIMBYism (and where it may diverge), and the problem with approaching the “wicked problem” of housing with a Suburban Experiment mindset: big solutions, big developers, big development. They also talk about why the fundamental problem of scale is crowding out the possibility of a city shaped by many hands.

Then in the Downzone, Chuck discusses reading “On the Shortness of Life,” by Stoic philosopher Lucius Seneca. (He referenced it in his Monday article too.) And Abby talks about rewatching Breaking Bad and rediscovering just how good it is.

Additional Show Notes