Renting San Francisco, CA

What’s the YIMBY Movement and How Is It Helping with Northern California’s Housing Shortage?

The only thing worse than high rents is actually not having a place to rent at all. A new story from shows that this is what some local YIMBY groups (‘Yes-In-My-Backyard’) are trying to highlight through their tech-funded, Millennial-led organizations. They are pro-development organizations trying to come up with ways to bring the housing crisis to a halt. Their leaders and volunteers get involved by lobbying, testifying and suing to push forward the development of new housing in existing neighborhoods.

Because of the current housing crisis in California, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find available homes for rent. And the reason is quite simple: there are not enough new homes being built at the moment which leaves many people struggling with high rents and possibly homelessness, the groups argue. YIMBY is comprised of different organizations pushing for more homes to be built. YIMBY Action, East Bay for Everyone, Palo Alto Forward or Catalyze SV are just some of the groups working in California towards fighting the housing shortage.

One recent YIMBY accomplishment was a state bill that just got signed into law, making it more difficult for cities to refuse new housing projects. The movement brings forward an approach based on the fact that it’s the housing shortage that drives the ever-increasing rents and not the high number of people coming to the Bay Area, lured by the prospect of a job in tech.

The organizations are no stranger to criticism either. Some people like activist Merika Reagan think that despite appearances, not enough is being done to help low income renters in the Bay Area. She experienced the struggle firsthand having to leave San Francisco because of high rents and now, she’s witnessing the same in East Oakland.

Miriam Zuk, a researcher at UC Berkley, believes that the Bay Area should build more homes as the current housing crisis is not only affecting the poor and middle-class but also those with a moderate- and upper-income. However, she believes that “there’s no reason to think that everybody’s going to be better off if we just build a lot more housing. There’s no reason to believe that if we just let the market do its thing and let development happen, the housing problems for low-income housing would be solved.”

Those part of the YIMBY movement are continuing to push policies in order to facilitate the development of affordable homes, as well as market-rate homes. One of the leaders of the Bay Area’s YIMBY, Sonja Trauss, argues that rents will continue to increase unless new homes are being built. She says that “we just flat out ran out of housing. There’s not enough to go around, and as with any kind of shortage if there’s not enough to go around, rich people get what’s there.”

Per the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the development of new homes in California has been so scarce lately, that the state would need almost 100,000 new homes per year in the high-cost metro areas, just to prevent prices from rising faster than the national average.

Moreover, Trauss also co-founded the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund, a legal advocacy nonprofit through which the YIMBYs already managed to take to court cities like Berkeley, Lafayette and Sausalito.

Along with other like-minded groups and with the support of Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, YIMBYs have successfully raised over $1 million in three years. Together, they hope to bring down the ever-increasing rents and accelerate the development of new homes.


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About the author

Florentina Sarac

Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 7-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email.

Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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