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Are you a PHIMBY?

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Democratic Socialists of America create new housing-based acronym

Increase In Housing Starts At End Of Year Signals Housing Market Recovery Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You know about NIMBYs, the “Not In My Backyard” ilk who want to abate growth while keeping certain types of people out of their neighborhoods. And you know about YIMBYs, the millennial-heavy “Yes In My Backyard” housing advocates who want to create denser, taller residential growth. Now meet PHIMBYs, a nascent “Public Housing In My Backyard” faction who, like NIMBYs, are against SB 827, the housing-transit bill, but like YIMBYs, are for housing—provided it’s affordable and geared toward low-income people.

It’s complicated. CityLab explains:

A loose alliance of socialist activists and tenants’ rights and affordable housing boosters, PHIMBYs also oppose SB 827, but for radically different reasons than the affluent homeowners: They’re convinced that unleashing market-rate development will not significantly improve the housing situation for low-income people. Their efforts are instead focused almost exclusively on the production of subsidized, below-market-rate units, and strengthening tenant protections and rent controls for existing residents.

The group was conceived by Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America member Jed Parriott, according to CityLab. While the group initially sided with the YIMBY ideology, they “felt that they were pushing more and more market-driven approaches” to solve the housing crisis. PHIMBYs sway even further away from YIMBYs in that, according to its statement, capitalist housing markets are dependent on “scarcity, class inequality, and racial injustice.”

But how would the PHIMBY idea work? Writing for The Guardian, Matt Bruenig, part of the thinktank People’s Policy Project, has more:

In a paper released by People’s Policy Project (3P)...my colleagues Peter Gowan and Ryan Cooper propose that municipal governments across the country build millions of units of social housing. An influx of publicly owned, efficiently built apartments would add to the housing supply while minimizing the displacement risks caused by luxury developments.

Under the 3P proposal, municipalities would finance the construction of new housing through municipal bond markets, loans from the federal government, and federal grants that mirror those already provided under the low-income housing tax credit program. The buildings themselves would be erected by construction companies through the same process that cities use to build libraries and other public facilities. Once constructed, the management of the new housing units could be done either through a public authority or by contracting with a property management company.

But not all socialists agree PHIMBYism’s anti-SB 827 rhetoric is a sound solution. Victoria Fierce, pro-housing activist and socialist, had this to say about the importance of building housing near transit:

By contrast, collective housing as a co-op or even an apartment building is a form of socialism. It’s about people living together and sharing experiences, or at least in very close proximity to one another.

Likewise, mass transit is in line with socialist values: people collectively getting to and from places—on trains, buses, or ferries run by our government. On transit owned by all of us.

Suburban housing tracts and sprawl, on the other hand, have their roots in capitalism and individualism—a man’s home is his castle and so on. It’s also car-centric with people traveling alone in their privately owned vehicles. Perpetuation of suburbia is diametrically opposed to the furtherance of collectivism.

The TL;DR of it: YIMBYs want to work within the capitalist housing market to create much-needed shelter, while PHIMBYs want to work outside of it.

And NIMBYs are presumably watching this all unfold while twirling the tip of their mustaches and petting a white Persian cat—SB 827 could provide the perfect opportunity for the formerly allied groups to tear each other apart.