The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

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JUL-AUG 2019 Issue
Field Notes

Accentuate the Positive: YIMBY in the Service of Development

New York State is in the midst of an unprecedented pro-housing legislative push. As I write, lawmakers appear poised to pass most of a package of bills that would establish “universal rent control,” preserve rent-stabilized apartments, and make the eviction process more difficult for landlords. This is the result of years of groundwork by tenant groups and a leftward shift in the general political alignment.

There is another, very different tendency pushing for more development in the name of affordable housing. Its ideology can be found in the work of the New York Times columnist inveighing against the “dismal saga of Nimbyist urban mismanagement that is crushing American cities.” And its members can be seen at zoning meetings, like the recent Department of City Planning (DCP) hearing in Gowanus, where Lauren Thomas and other members of Open New York spoke following near-unanimous community condemnation of the city's rezoning plan for the neighborhood. Thomas declared:

I’ve lived in Brooklyn for two years. I’m here to support the proposed rezoning and ask DCP to consider adding more housing than the 8200 units that are currently expected to be added under this plan. If New York wants to aspire to be a sustainable, inclusive and dynamic city, and if DCP wants this particular rezoning to be a sustainable and inclusive rezoning…they will need to add more housing, not only for those who already live in New York, but for all of those who want to move here. … Moreover, adding residential density is integral to the fight against climate change.1

Thomas inspired head scratching from some meeting attendees who found her comments outlandish. She was merely articulating the ideology of YIMBY, a well-funded force attempting to shape the debate. In New York YIMBYs, (short for "Yes In My Back Yard") are small in number, but well-represented at DCP meetings, at Community Board Land Use (ULURP) meetings, at City Council meetings, and on Twitter. You might have heard one of their head figures at a hearing for, say, the 80 Flatbush megadevelopment, blasting community opponents of the project as "wealthy homeowners who, at best, seek to maintain the aesthetics of the neighborhood, their views, parking, and property values—and at worst, seek to maintain the ethnic and class composition of the neighborhood that they’ve gentrified over the past several decades."2

This movement coalesces around a pro-growth agenda and a strict adherence to basic tenets of neoclassical economics: supply and demand. YIMBYs can claim California governor Gavin Newsom as a fellow traveler, as well as hardcore libertarians, Clintonite democrats, and a few Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) cadres.3 YIMBYs are not a monolithic bloc, but tend to believe that the major problem fueling the housing crisis is not enough housing of all kinds. This means mostly market-rate housing. Since the vast majority of people can't afford market-rate housing, this is one of the points where YIMBY ideology aligns directly with elite social priorities. The foil in this scenario is "NIMBY," short for "Not In My Back Yard," who are mainly stubborn homeowners, community groups, and politicians who support exclusionary zoning policies standing in the way of progress. NIMBYism and exclusionary zoning geared toward keeping out low-income, and especially non-white, residents, are real issues, especially in wealthy and suburban neighborhoods that oppose things like homeless shelters.4 YIMBYs, however, deliberately conflate working-class tenants and community groups with reactionary homeowners—a tactic that frames dense development as progress and resistance to displacement as backward and self-interested.5

This line of argument is most aptly summed up by New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo. In a May 22 screed, "America's Cities are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals." Manjoo locates the problem with elitist tech billionaires, and NIMBY Democrats. In San Francisco, the focus of Manjoo's piece, the YIMBY movement has benefited immensely from the financial largess of the tech oligarchs. Manjoo omits this fact. Instead, he uses a simple, but misleading analogy: "What Republicans want to do with I.C.E. and border walls, wealthy progressive Democrats are doing with zoning and Nimbyism. Preserving 'local character,' maintaining 'local control,' keeping housing scarce and inaccessible—the goals of both sides are really the same: to keep people out." On its face, this sounds great. Who doesn't hate tech oligarchs and corporate Democrats and xenophobic Republicans? But the real story of the housing crisis is much more complex, and deserves an appropriate accounting.

Planners and scholars have used the term "YIMBY" since the 1980s, mainly in the context of creating community consensus on things like the siting of toxic waste. The term took on new meaning in recent years, starting in the San Francisco Bay Area, where mostly young white newcomers to the city stormed from planning meetings into the arms of the media. Predictably, the New York Times, and the rest heaped effusive praise on YIMBYs like Sonja Trauss and her Bay Area Renters’ Federation (BARF, an acronym befitting the organization’s tactics). Most mainstream sources downplayed the font of tech money showered upon Trauss and other Bay Area YIMBYs. The media almost universally ignored the financial backing the reactionary San Francisco police union gave to Trauss's (unsuccessful) run for city supervisor.6


The YIMBY enemy isn't the state, or capital, or corporations, but overrepresented homeowners who will stop at nothing to preserve their property values. Established tenants' groups—which sometimes form alliances with these groups out of necessity—are either unwitting dupes, or equally motivated by selfish concerns. YIMBYs disregard the context of years of disinvestment in central cities, instead blaming the housing crisis in places like San Francisco on "a housing shortage stoked by decades of development restrictions."7 Erin McElroy of the Anti Eviction Mapping Project refers to the YIMBY approach as "All Housing Matters." And she knows firsthand. She's seen San Francisco YIMBYS attack established tenant organizations for focusing on evictions and rent control. Bay Area housing activists relay examples of YIMBYs sowing chaos at community meetings, a practice McElroy sees as "embody[ing] the cult of disruption that characterizes big tech in general."8 YIMBY weaponized entitlement was on full display at an April 2018 press conference organized by a coalition of dozens of groups voicing perceived concerns about the dangers of displacement from state bill, SB 827. Video from the event shows white YIMBYs bearing signs scrawled with inanities like "Yes, actually," and shouting down speakers of color.9 YIMBYs also take an "All Landlords Matter" approach. By supporting any and all development, they often find themselves on the side of any developer, no matter their history.

YIMBYs often point to increasing population in cities to justify their ideology. The sentiment was best summed up by Trauss: "Someone needs to represent people who haven't yet moved into a neighborhood." YIMBYs generally claim to be "progressive," but disregard concerns by long-term residents. As Laura Foote Clark, director of San Francisco's YIMBY Action, told a Slate reporter "How is you having been here a long time a mark in your favor?"10 This is a central YIMBY theme: the city should be for everyone, including those who don't yet live in cities. As former Berkeley Planning Commission chair Zelda Bronstein puts it: "By this standard, current inhabitants who set limits to new housing are dodging their moral obligation to accommodate not only people fleeing oppression and brutality, but all would-be residents."11 A tenant organizer I know refers to the "cities are for everyone" line as so much "concern for the rights of the unborn."


New York's main YIMBY organization, Open New York, promotes this idea. While its website is light on ideology, the group is more forthcoming in comments submitted to the City Charter Revision Commission. Open New York leader Ben Thypin hits familiar YIMBY notes: "New development benefits everyone in the City. It even benefits people who don’t yet live in New York, but might hope someday to move into that new apartment (whether coming from Westchester or the West Indies)."12 Thypin's choice of the West Indies as an example of in-migration is curious. His real estate firm Quantierra drew the ire of then City Council member Jumaane Williams after Thypin's lieutenant and partner Stephen Smith sent letters to residents of West Indian East Flatbush, warning that Williams supported downzoning policies that would drive their property values down. Smith went on to offer to introduce homeowners to developers interested in tearing down their homes (for a small fee, of course).13

Thypin, a proud heir to the Thypin Steel Company, got his start working on his family's real estate portfolio. He ran his own real estate equity company, Progress Real Estate Partners, before starting the real estate data and consulting firm Quantierra. He hired Smith, an influential Twitter presence on the YIMBY scene to work as a partner at his firm. Smith, a former real estate journalist, is known for libertarian salvos against rent control, and prose gawking at remote, exotic Brooklyn as if he were on a safari: "...if trends in nearby neighborhoods are any indication, it won’t be long before Brownsville—a byword for blight, home to the largest concentration of public housing towers in the city and to this day a place that some mail carriers fear to tread—is selling something artisanal besides stamp bags."14 Quantierra's business practices are revealing. The company owns a Crown Heights townhouse that it rents to cohousing company Common, which sliced the four-story building up into 19 rooms, with rents starting at $1,800 for a hip shoebox. The Real Deal reports that Quantierra is assisting Common in locating additional spaces (Common's CEO says he is looking "to get at least a dozen buildings in this neighborhood").15 At the risk of stating the absolutely obvious: This business model hardly shows a commitment to housing affordability. It does highlight that the main forces behind New York YIMBYism are not disinterested actors.

In his comments to the Charter Revision Commission, Thypin segues into another YIMBY truism—stubborn community opposition must be circumvented, and decision-making power around issues such as land use must be removed from the community boards. "But that diffuse, city-wide perspective will never be raised by Community Boards or other forms of community-based planning—those institutions necessarily amplify the voices of immediate neighbors complaining about losing their view or their free on-street parking space. As such, Open New York urges the Commission to reject any proposal which would tilt the planning process away from city-wide concerns, whether affordability, economic growth, or environmental sustainability."16

There is one issue on which I do concur with Open New York. I would sacrifice a community garden here and there for truly affordable housing. If the city can obtain guarantees of permanent affordability for the senior housing on the city-owned Elizabeth Street Garden in the West Village, I am all for it.


YIMBYs generally oppose things like rent regulation or pied-à-terre taxes. YIMBY ideology—even left variants—posits developers as necessary, neutral actors. "No one else is going to build this stuff," is a pretty common refrain.17 YIMBYs offer scant public critique of a force that has unprecedented wealth and influence. Or, as Samuel Stein writes: "Real estate is now a $217 trillion dollar industry, worth 36 times the value of all the gold ever mined."18

There’s a reason "YIMBYTOWN" conferences have been picketed by tenant groups. Local politicians have no problem speaking at these shindigs, usually alongside representatives of big real estate. The isolation of tenant leaders isn't coincidental. Vox pundit and YIMBY booster Matthew Yglesias thinks YIMBYs should focus less on winning over existing community groups. "At the end of the day, if anti-gentrification activists had that much political clout, we wouldn’t see so much gentrification!" Yglesias, famous for his support of the Iraq War, is honest about his support for YIMBY: "For starters, it strikes me as perverse for a movement that’s largely composed of youngish middle-class professionals living in big cities to deny the obvious benefits of a YIMBY agenda for youngish middle-class professionals living in big cities."19

A central foundation of YIMBYism is "filtering." It's a basic supply-and-demand argument: build enough housing, and the prices will drop. The argument also holds that wealthier newcomers to cities will be siphoned away from gentrifying neighborhoods, and that they will choose the housing that suits their price range. By rezoning along transit corridors, the city will be a greener place, and fewer people will be reliant on cars.

In a representative Washington Post Op-Ed, last September, NYU law professor Roderick M. Hills, Jr. asked rhetorically, "Why do so many affordable-housing advocates reject the law of supply and demand?" Hills employs characteristic YIMBY snark and dismissiveness directed towards the Democratic Socialists of America and the members of Make the Road NYC who question upzonings in neighborhoods like East New York: "Left NIMBYism not only flatly contradicts the logic of supply and demand but also flies in the face of empirical studies of what happens when cities see new construction. In its stubborn rejection of empirical reality, the Left NIMBYist view of housing markets shares characteristics of ideologically motivated refusals to accept evidence in other contexts, such as climate change or the safety of vaccines." Hills attacks the "remarkably flimsy" logic of YIMBY critics, since "Attributing rent increases to new market-rate housing is like attributing rainstorms to umbrellas." Hills invokes Stuart Rosenthal, a leading proponent of filtering: "'direct evidence that housing filters down, on average,' is so indisputable that 'there should no longer be debate on this point.' According to Rosenthal, market-rate housing filters down at a rate of almost 2 percent per year—fast enough to make a big difference. Housing filters fastest in the middle of the country, but it filters down on the expensive coasts, too, he found."20

Unfortunately for Hills, Rosenthal's study does little to squelch debate. Using American Housing Survey data from 1983-2011, Rosenthal's paper is an argument against using public subsidies like Low Income Housing Tax Credits to spur the development of affordable housing; he claims the market works just fine as it is. He runs a number of econometric models, based on the incomes of residents moving into homes. The overall pattern showed incomes decline with each successive wave of inhabitants. Rosenthal notes that rents in filtered areas decrease by 0.3% per year.21 The study doesn't deal with the reasons incomes of new inhabitants would be declining, like wage stagnation, decline in quality work, and such. There is also no mention of New York, which, in the years he surveyed went from severe disinvestment, and "planned shrinkage" policies, to a place where oligarchs gobble up housing as a place to park their money. Many other factors should be considered when accounting for housing costs. Not the least of these are the housing market meltdown, the Great Recession, and the subsequent nationwide takeover of residential housing stock by private equity firms. None of these receive any mention in this paper. Crunching sets of stats for the entire country ignores the very real differences between the Rust Belt (which Rosenthal points to enthusiastically) and major urban centers, where rents and land prices have increased consistently. There is no attempt to ascertain the number of people displaced against the amount of housing supposedly filtered. Even assuming housing actually filtered down in the context of New York, where land values and rents have increased steadily since the 80s, it could take decades to see any benefit.22

Hills points to another, even more problematic study to make the same point: This study doesn't say what Hills wants it to say. It clearly states "New York experienced more gentrification than filtering by 24,000 units, a marked departure from the national pattern; in Los Angeles, gentrification was also more common than filtering, by 10,000 units..."23

Surely an authority such as the esteemed Roderick M. Hills would have been aware of the Washington Post survey of data from Zillow from a month prior, which found that housing price "decline is being driven primarily by decreasing prices for high-end rentals. People in low-end housing, the apartments and other units that house working-class residents, are still paying more than ever."24

In New York, we have seen something quite different from the abstract notion of filtering. To take one recent sliver of the years when housing ostensibly filtered, 2000-2012, New York saw rent increases of 75 percent, while wages rose only 31%.25

YIMBYs will likely claim that I just don't get the way the economy and the world work. Bisnow, the commercial real estate website, gets exactly how the world of New York real estate functions. At the end of April, the site hosted a panel of developers and investors bemoaning a glut in luxury housing. The panel was clearly worried about increased rent regulation coming from Albany. In an ominous warning, we are told: "For decades, the bread-and-butter of New York's real estate investment market has been acquiring buildings with some level of rent regulation, turning over tenants and making a profit on the elevated rent. In some form or another, that is expected to change." According to Bisnow reporter Ethan Rothstein, the prospect of increased regulation from a left-leaning legislature has been one of the main inducements for developers to focus more heavily on affordable housing (though the definition of "affordable" is open to interpretation). "That increase [in affordable construction] is part of a ripple effect from the possible rent regulations."

And despite the glut in luxury units on the market, prices haven't gone down significantly. Rothstein explains that the banks floating the developers are also in denial of the iron law of supply and demand. "Those same lenders are part of the reason those who have developed residential buildings the last few years—the vast majority of which are luxury or 'affordable luxury' condominiums—are having such a tough time selling their units."

Rothstein continues, "[Meridian Capital Group Senior Managing Director Morris] Betesh pointed out that prices could be decreasing more, but developers of the tens of thousands of condo units on the market can only lower asking prices so much—they are legally required by lending agreements to get a certain price on their units."26


Supply-and-demand fetishism doesn't address other "managed" factors, like the tendency of landlords to keep apartments off the market, thereby keeping rents up. The latest Census survey of NYC apartment vacancy puts the official city rental vacancy rate at 3.63 percent, or 79,000 apartments (the official rental vacancy rate for Manhattan was 4.7 percent) . Not counted in the tally are an additional 245,000 units kept off the market for various reasons. Close to a third of these "were unavailable because of occasional, seasonal, or recreational use."27

Real-estate publication The Real Deal (TRD) crunched Census data, and found "60 percent of residences in a 14-block tract of Midtown East between 49th and 56th streets were ‘seasonally vacant’ between 2013 and 2017.” TRD researchers looked at Department of Finance and Independent Budget Office info on more than 92,000 Manhattan condos ("all the Manhattan condo buildings with 30 or more units") and estimated that 43 percent are investment vehicles or pieds-à-terre. State Representative Carolyn Maloney told TRD "You can just ride through my district at night, the East Side of Manhattan, and you’ll pass complete buildings where there are no lights on." And: "They’re bank accounts." A real estate lawyer is quoted: "These buildings were targeting the Billionaires’ Club of the world." He says, "Most nights, there are five lights on. It’s crazy."

We hear from a realtor who quips: "It’s that level of success where you have the luxury of having your own pillow and artwork, so that when you’re in town you’re not in a hotel." He adds, "There were buyers from Australia, Hong Kong and Turkey…There’s one person from the Upper East Side who wanted a Downtown apartment. I saw her in the elevator the other day — they live on the Upper East, and this is their weekend getaway."28

New York City isn’t facing a housing shortage, but rather, a distribution shortage.

Picture the Homeless (PTH), a homeless-led activist group, conducts a periodic survey of the number of vacant lots and properties owned by the city. Comptroller Scott Stringer's office has conducted similar research. PTH found that these properties could potentially house 200,000 people, while Stringer's office found enough city lots for an estimated 57,000 permanently affordable units.

But, but, supply and demand, you just don't understand the basic fundamentals of Econ 101, the YIMBYs sputter. YIMBY is a "capitalist realist" ideology, rooted in "the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it."29 Paul Goodman, who spent much of his life trying to talk sense into city planners, used to call this type of thing "TINA," short for "There is No Alternative." In instances where increased market-rate housing has occurred coevally with displacement, the line is: "And if it wasn't for developers building those units…the crisis would be far worse."30 This is the same argument leftist YIMBY Randy Shaw makes in his Generation Priced Out. Shaw hails Seattle as a model of pro-growth affordability; he gushes over rent decreases in that town that were still 59% above the 2011 rate. Within what is perhaps the least critical treatment I have ever read of Amazon's role in the city's economy (he notes that "Seattle ranked third in the country in the number of homeless persons"), we find this gem: "Seattle's housing market is unquestionably better than it would be if the city had not built so much housing, but far too many Seattle residents remain priced out."31 To Shaw’s credit, he refrains from exclaiming, This is the Best of All Possible Worlds!

The housing situation is in a state of permanent crisis. A 2017 Regional Plan Association (RPA) study, Pushed Out, found that an estimated 1 million residents are at risk of displacement in the Greater New York area. So many people have already been displaced that the RPA report soberly mentioned "many neighborhoods in Manhattan and northwest Brooklyn don't appear on the current displacement index simply because there are few low-income people left to displace." The study lists several potential remedies. While the RPA does support construction of all types of new housing, the organization calls for increased subsidies to allow low-income residents to afford market-rate housing. Additionally, the RPA suggests more right-to-counsel support for tenants facing eviction, and greater rent protections. It also recommends utilizing city-owned properties for permanently affordable housing.32

While the Brooklyn population actually shrank 2% over the past year,33 one thing is certain: Black and Latino residents are being disproportionately displaced. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition looked at census data from 1990–2010 and found that New York lost an estimated 15,000 Blacks (an 18% decline, while the white population increased by 7%).34 In a city where most wealth is concentrated in the top decile of the top one percent, and the average median income ranges from $35,302 (the Bronx) to $75,513 (Manhattan), "build more market-rate housing" is not the answer.35

One thing that has never been in short supply is ideas for solving the housing crisis. Comptroller Scott Stringer proposed a Land Bank of vacant city-owned properties. Scholars and activists have churned out countless books and reports on social housing. Daniel Aldana Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania’s Socio-Spatial Climate Collaborative and others have been proposing a "Green New Deal for Housing" that draws inspiration from the best of Red Vienna and other successful socialized housing experiments.36 You could throw a rock into the historical archive and find ideas better than YIMBYism. To take one random example from a hundred years ago, consider a pamphlet commissioned by trade unions and concerned community members looking to solve the severe housing shortages in Wilmington, Delaware. The authors concluded, "Private Builders Cannot Meet the Situation," and recommended the formation of public corporations partnering with unions to build housing. The report, "Shall Wilmington Stop Growing?"37 was flawed, but it still had more imagination than YIMBYism. There are solutions, if we choose to pursue them. They will require hard work, and a rethinking of housing as something other than a commodity. We can do much, much better than YIMBYism, an ideology as slick and vacuous as the gleaming, empty condo towers cluttering up so much of New York’s skyline.

  1. Pamela Wong, "Public Speaks Out Against Gowanus Rezoning at Scoping Meeting," Bklyner, April 26, 2019.
  2. Class composition is a term traditionally associated with Marxism; the largely libertarian YIMBYs have no problem appropriating the language and tone of the left; Sam Raskin, "The YIMBY movement comes to New York City: Open New York, the city’s first self-style YIMBY group, advocates for more housing in high-opportunity areas," Curbed NY, September 17, 2018.
  3. The leader of one Bay Area YIMBY group, "East Bay for Everyone," absurdly claims to be an "anarchist."
  4. For a discussion of real racialized NIMBYism as utilized by wealthy white towns in Connecticut, see Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, "Separated by Design: How Some of America's Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing," ProPublica, May 22, 2019.
  5. For two excellent takes on YIMBY tactics in the Bay Area, see: Erin McElroy and Andrew Szeto, "The Racial Contours or YIMBY/NIMBY Bay Area Gentrification," Berkeley Planning Journal, Volume 29, 2017; and Tim Redmond, "Listen, Yimby! What if your market-based model is destined to fail? An open letter from someone who is not a Nimby," 48 Hills, July 12, 2017,
  6. Tim Redmond, "The POA wants to lock more people up — and thinks its chosen candidates will, too," 48Hills, October 22, 2018.
  7. Henry Grabar, “San Francisco’s Civil War. YIMBYs! Socialists! The only thing the Bay Area’s tenant activists hate more than high rent is each other,” Slate, June 28, 2017.
  8. Author interview with Erin McElroy, December 2018.
  9. Tim Redmond, "Denounce the Yimby disruption," 48 Hills, April 6, 2018.; Also see: Joe Fitzgerald Rodgriguez, "SB 827 rallies end with YIMBYs shouting down protesters of color," San Francisco Examiner, April 5, 2018.
  10. Grabar, "San Francisco’s Civil War.
  11. Zelda Bronstein, "California's 'Yimbys': The Growth Machine's Shock Troops," Dollars and Sense, September/October 2018,
  12. Benjamin Carlos Thypin, Letter to New York Charter Revision Commission, July 6, 2018. Available online at
  13. Nelson A. King, "East Flatbush rallies against over-development," Caribbean Life (Brooklyn), April 27, 2018. Journalist Kadia Goba posted Smith's letter online:
  14. Stephen Jacob Smith, "Closing in on Brownsville: Brooklyn Gentrification Nears the Final Frontier," Observer, May 14, 2013. Smith’s howlers weren’t limited to crude depictions of black neighborhoods; for his vigorous defense of fracking and pipelines, see: Stephen Jacob Smith, "Fracking the West Village (Or Something)," Observer, May 28, 2013.
  15. Konrad Putzier, "Will Common’s co-living venture make sense to Brooklyn?," The Real Deal, October 19, 2015. See also: Will Parker and David Jeans, "Squeezing profits from shared housing: Demand and investor interest in the co-living model are on the rise, even as skepticism over scalability and affordability remains," The Real Deal, April 1, 2019.
  16. Thypin, letter to Charter Review Commission.
  17. Grabar, "San Francisco’s Civil War.
  18. This claim is from Samuel Stein's excellent Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State, Verso, 2019. Stein gets this figure from the 2017 UN Rapporteur report on housing.
  19. Matthew Yglesias, "Affordable Housing is just the beginning of YIMBY," Vox, September 24, 2018.
  20. Roderick M. Hills Jr., "Why do so many affordable housing advocates reject the law of supply and demand?," Washington Post, September 18, 2018.
  21. Stuart S. Rosenthal, "Are Private Markets and Filtering a Viable Source of Low-Income Housing? Estimates from a 'Repeat-Income' Model," American Economic Review, 2014. See page 692 for discussion of rent decreases.
  22. Stephen Smith of Quantierra once claimed that the" hundredth glass tower with the neighborhood's fifth bank won't even be noticed. It's at this point that the price-lowering effect of dumping new units on the market will outweigh the price-raising effect of the new amenities – in other words, prices will start to fall" At this point, he figures, "Wealthier new residents have more political savvy than the old ones, and they use this to impose a protective NIMBY shield around the neighborhood, repeating the same pattern. Stephen Smith, "Does Urban Growth Have to Mean Gentrification?," Forbes, September 29, 2011.
  23. John C. Weicher, Frederick J. Eggers, Fouad Moumen, The Long-Term Dynamics of Affordable Rental Housing," Final report to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, p. 159, September 15, 2017.
  24. Jeff Stein, "In expensive cities, rents fall for the rich, but rise for the poor," Washington Post," August 6, 2018.
  25. Samuel Stein, "De Blasio's Doomed Housing Plan," Jacobin, October 2014.; As I was writing this essay, yet another paper was released disputing the filtering argument. Its authors conclude, "Part of the mainstream academic literature may also have become–wittingly or unwittingly–a stalking horse for developers whose primary interest is not in reducing socio-spatial inequalities or spreading prosperity. Serious affordability policies, which inevitably involve public subsidies and regulation, as well as measures to finance them, are curiously absent from the literature, with its focus on deregulation." Andrés Rodríguez-Pose and Michael Storper, "Housing, Urban Growth and Inequalities," Urban Studies, p 36, (forthcoming), 2019. Available online at: I learned about this paper from Richard Florida, "'Build More Housing' Is No Match For Inequality," CityLab, May 9, 2019.
  26. Ethan Rothstein, "With Sales Markets in The Tank, NYC Apartment Development Poised to Surge New York Multifamily," Bisnow, May 16, 2019.
  27. US Census, "Selected Initial Findings of the 2017 New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey," February 9, 2019. p9. . See also: Robert Neuwirth, "247,977 stories in the Vacant City, priced out of reach for most renters, New York Daily News, March 25, 2018.
  28. E.B. Solomont, "NYC's ghost towers: Just how many of Manhattan’s luxury condos are owned by people who don’t live there?," The Real Deal, April 1, 2019.
  29. Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? Zero Books, London, 2009, p2. Available online at
  30. Grabar, “San Francisco’s Civil War.”
  31. Randy Shaw, "Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America,” University of California Press, 2018, p 121. Shaw represents the left current of YIMBY. It should be noted that he gives Boyle Heights tenants resisting gentrification a sympathetic treatment elsewhere in the book. Generation Priced Out is terribly inconsistent; he praises YIMBYs nationwide, yet in his section on NYC, he defers to local non-YIMBY activists like New York Communities for Change, and the Crown Heights Tenants Union. In a review, YIMBY site "Market Urbanist" praised Shaw’s pro-development stance, but took issue with his support for rent regulation..
  32. Regional Plan Association, "Pushed Out: Housing Displacement in an Unaffordable Region," 2019.
  33. Laura Bliss, "Brooklyn Is Booming. So Why Is It Shrinking?," CityLab, March 23, 2018.
  34. National Community Reinvestment Coalition, "Shifting Neighborhoods: Gentrification and cultural displacement in American cities," March 2019.
  35. Kay Dervishi, "Why AMI are the three most controversial letters in New York housing policy," City and State, August 13, 2018.; New York City Independent Budget Office, "New York City Residents' Income and Tax Liability. Tax Year 2016."
  36. Daniel Aldana Cohen, "A Green New Deal for Housing," Jacobin, February 8, 2019.
  37. Shall Wilmington stop growing? The importance of immediate home building. Summary of report on housing situation in Wilmington. Prepared by Bureau of municipal research, New York: November 1919.


Rico Cleffi

Rico Cleffi is based in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he edits Frequency and Amplitude ( a website dealing with the world of NYC-area analog radio. He would like to thank the very helpful and patient librarians at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Center for Brooklyn History and the Archives at the Queens Central Library. Readers interested in viewing many of the sources used in the research for this article are invited to visit


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