On May 13, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Trey Hollingsworth (IN-09) introduced the Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act, bipartisan legislation to identify obstacles to, and opportunities for, increasing home construction through better zoning, by-right development, and faster permitting. The legislation aims to encourage localities to eliminate discriminatory land use policies and remove barriers that prevent needed housing from being built around the country.
“Our nation had challenges with housing before this pandemic – and those challenges have only been exacerbated by it. We need more workforce housing, more senior housing, more homeless housing, and more affordable housing. We need more housing units, period,” said Rep. Kilmer. “That’s why I’m leading bipartisan legislation to help communities in our region and across the country reduce barriers to housing construction and build more affordable housing for the folks that need it the most.”
“Having a safe and stable home helps create safe and stable lives for families,” said Rep. Hollingsworth. “YIMBY incentivizes the removal of barriers and burdensome, restrictive land use policies to help Hoosiers access affordable housing and build better lives for themselves.”
“Too many areas of our country have residential zoning policies created to exclude. We view the YIMBY Act as a tool to undo those policies of exclusion, so that everyone has an opportunity to choose the housing and location that is right for them,” said Maureen Fife, Chief Executive Officer of Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity. “By creating incentives for local communities to continue to identify and remove barriers to housing development, we believe the YIMBY Act is an important step to building the millions of homes our country needs.”
According to Up For Growth Action, a non-profit organization that focuses on housing affordability, from 2000 to 2015, the United States underproduced housing by 7.3 million homes. One considerable barrier to housing construction has been zoning and land use policies that stifle construction. As these regulations have increased, they have resulted in fewer homes being built, and untenable cost increases.
The YIMBY Act addresses this by requiring local governments applying for federal housing development funds through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to report on policies that may affect housing affordability. Specifically, the YIMBY Act would require recipients of CDBG funding to track and report on the implementation of certain land use policies that promote housing production, such as enacting high-density single-family and multifamily zoning, addressing height limitations, and encouraging and reducing minimum lot size.
The CDBG program provides annual grants to states and local units of government to develop communities by providing decent housing and expanding economic opportunities. Recognizing that CDBG funds are critical for localities, the YIMBY Act seeks to encourage local governments and CDBG practitioners to work together to address severe housing underproduction and improve the lives of families and individuals who are negatively impacted by a lack of affordable housing.
In addition, the YIMBY Act aims to increase transparency on local land use policies and encourage localities to reduce barriers to housing production.
“The YIMBY Act complements the many pro-housing proposals currently before Congress,” said Mike Kingsella, Executive Director of Up for Growth Action. “The YIMBY Act will empower communities across the country to clear the path for housing that is more affordable, equitable, and sustainable. Up for Growth Action encourages Congress to say yes to more affordable and market-rate housing by passing the YIMBY Act.”
250 national and local organizations sent a letter today to congressional leaders and to the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge to announce their support for the legislation, including: AARP, American Planning Association, Americans for Prosperity, Family Promise, Habitat for Humanity International, Habitat for Humanity of Seattle King County, Housing Connector, Housing Development Consortium of Seattle and King County, Master Builders Association of Pierce County, National Apartment Association, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Seattle 2030 District, Seattle for Everyone, Seattle Institute, Up for Growth Action, YIMBY Action, and Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, among others.
The legislation, which passed the House in the 116th Congress, is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ed Case (D-HI), Van Taylor (R-TX), Norma Torres (D-CA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and Gregory Meeks (D-NY).
Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).