Advocacy strategies

From HousingWiki
YIMBY Action members, January 2018, photo from @GrowTheRichmond

gathering materials on messaging and advocacy strategy for YIMBY and housing issues. 

The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative

from Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, 1972: 

"The twelfth rule: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. You cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying "You're right—we don't know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us."

In a sense this is the strategy most important to YIMBYwiki, as we are interested above all in facilitating constructive action and the search for alternative possibilities. 

Housing for All

used by many different housing advocacy groups. Name / tagline of a housing coalition in Seattle. 

Housing Scarcity


Cruel Musical Chairs (or Why Is Rent So High?) - Sightline Institute

"How does a growing, prospering city stay affordable for all kinds of people? At the most basic level, when there aren’t enough homes, prices will keep rising. And when there are plenty of homes, it helps prices stay down. "It’s like a huge game of musical chairs. If there aren’t enough chairs when the music stops, someone is left out. When there aren’t enough homes for people who live and work in a city, everybody has to compete for what’s available, and rents go up until people get priced out. In the housing market, instead of being fast, you just need to be rich to stay in the game. "To fix it, we need more homes in all shapes and sizes. That means more cottages, apartments, duplexes, triplexes, condos, and mother-in-law units. More homes allows more people to stay and thrive in their communities. It means more people can afford to live near jobs, great schools, and transit."

Bertolet, Dan. "Video: Cruel Musical Chairs (Or why is the rent so high?)." Sightline Institute, 31 October 2017.


Provide cover for local officials to say Yes

heard @Scott_Wiener and others make exactly this point (eg Scott here at #MTCcasa ) We need to help provide cover for local officials so they can take a broader, longer-term, more inclusive view


Legalize housing

(used by SF YIMBY) 


How to Talk To Your NIMBY Parents (Laura Loe Bernstein)

Bernstein, Laura. "How To Talk To Your NIMBY Parents". The Urbanist, 2016-10-31.

Advice on going to a public meeting (Laura Loe Bernstein)

Bernstein, Laura Loe (@YIMBYsea). "Advice on going to a public meeting in your neighborhood." 4 Dec 2017. 



Add new rungs to the ladder

YIMBYwiki‏ @YIMBYwiki 4 Dec 2017 
@cbracy a messaging angle we've been exploring is: if ladder seems to be pulled up, perhaps what's in everyone's interests is to add new lower rungs - new forms of starter home like ownable/movable ADUs, small-lot subdivision, SFH conv to cluster c/@afahey



Dr. Lisa Schweitzer's "Getting to Yes with YIMBY in LA"

In 2017, USC planning professor Dr. Lisa Schweitzer conducted a series of interviews with Los Angeles anti-displacement activists and explored their understanding of YIMBY ideas: 

"One of my points in yesterday’s discussion was, simply, that the rhetorical or persuasive burden on YIMBY advocates is higher than it is on the NIMBY component (which is different than the anti-displacement side, btw). I stand by that statement for the simple reason that NIMBY have policy inertia on their side. They have existing zoning laws on their side; they have federal home ownership favoritism on their side. They have close to 70 years of zoning being mainstream practice, at least in the US. It’s not just or right, necessarily; it’s that any form of progressive reform always has to break free of the event horizon of the status quo. Those who want the status quo only have to maintain it. "Given that progressive reforms have happened and do happen, it’s not impossible. It just requires heavy lifting, and some of that heavy lifting is tediously having to repeat the same points on the policy agenda to anybody who doesn’t run away quickly enough. "I’ve been spending my summer working on interviews with anti-displacement advocates (if you are reading this, and I haven’t pestered you, and you have something you want to say, hit me up), and it’s been enlightening. It caused me to back up and examine what premises you have to accept in order to arrive at a yes for YIMBY if you, yourself, don’t have a preference for urbanism. And it’s a pretty long persuasive journey. a) that zoning contributes to sprawl (probably the least contentious); b) that sprawl’s environmental and social consequences are sufficiently important to require that existing neighborhoods, which people may enjoy as they currently are, allow infill, even at the risk of crowding and other problems that strangers bring, in order to prevent the consequences of more building on the suburban fringe; c) that infill development actually can fix affordability or the other problems wrought by exclusion/zoning/sprawl rather than just displacing and potentially harming existing residents; that is, it is possible to accommodate as many new people (or more) in existing neighborhoods, closer to the city center, as it would have been to put them in new suburban developments on the fringe to address housing demand in urbanizing metro areas; d) that doing so will result in more good than harm overall; and for various subgroups at any given time, e) that doing so will result in more good than harm *to them personally* overall.  



Messaging studies from Framework Institute / Enterprise Community Partners



Major counter-narratives that housing and community development advocates are often inadvertently activating.

(From "You Don't Have to Live Here" (Manuel et al 2016)

The Mobility, Personal Responsibility, and Self-Makingness Backfire

The Separate Fates and Zero-Sum Thinking Backfire

The Thin Understanding of Cause and Effect Backfire

The Crisis and Fatalism Backfire

The Not-in-My-Backyard and Natural Segregation Backfire

The Facts Don’t Fit the Frame Backfire


Don't do good things if they seem to be bad

("No hagas cosas buenas que parezcan malas") related to #3 by @Nullthread at SEA houser meetup 23 Jun 2017.