We all know about the inequality, loss of opportunity and economic damage caused by lack of housing.
There has been plenty of great political and legal activism.
There's still a shortage of actionable plans to fix the problem permanently. In an ideal world, housing would catch up with the century of progress on affordability that we have seen with cars.
As YIMBYs we want to make sure that enough housing gets built so that housing is affordable for everyone. We're not going to achieve that by changing human nature. We're not going to achieve that by telling better stories.
We need better stories, but in service of a plan that will get us to a changed system. We cannot win with the current system. The only way to win is to change the rules.
The zoning system itself is broken. We need to fix it in a way that takes account of the way humans actually work, to create a system that allows enough housing to get built with a continuous process of densification and growth. As society gets richer, people are going to continue to want ever larger homes. Any system that doesn't recognize and enable that is bad law.
Homeowners are a voting majority in too many high-cost cities and in the US and UK as a whole. Trying to push for change that hurts all homeowners is unlikely to win. The classic way to get change in those circumstances is to bundle together a set of reforms that won't hurt too many of them.
The great news is that the economic damage from the housing shortage is so great that it's easy to write reforms that will make renters and many homeowners better off. We just have to find the ones that are politically achievable.
There are plenty of options. Upzoning a small part of a large housing market (like in the Bay Area) makes those homeowners better off by increasing the value of their land. Air rights (TDRs) partly worked in Manhattan. @ProfSchleich suggests TILTs or development budgets. We think it will be easiest in the UK if we can get something that also helps to make buildings more attractive.
Every YIMBY in the world has an interest in helping other cities to find great solutions, to prove that they are politically realistic.
So our question for YIMBYs in other cities is – what reform in your city is politically easiest to achieve for maximum impact? Because we're sorry, but human nature isn't going to change.