Philosophical Differences in the Land Use debate

Anatomy of a NIMBY

One of the most frustrating things about land-use debates is that despite the fact many of us share common goals of affordable housing choices, walkability, and environmental protection, the debates get so heated as we try to figure out how to achieve this goal.  This unfortunately titled article from the Seattle Weekly News discusses some of the philosophical differences that lead to grief over growth.

On one side is a faction known as “urbanists” by friends and “densinistas” by enemies. Their ideology begins with the premise that housing is a commodity. Like all commodities, its price follows the tug-and-shove of supply and demand. Right now demand is surging, and with supply sitting tight in its snug little single-family bungalow, cost is surging as well. An obvious solution follows from this narrative: Build more housing.... On the other side of the debate are “neighborhood preservationists,” if you want to be polite, or if you don’t, “NIMBYs”—an acronym for Not In My Back Yard.... The preservationists’ ideology starts with the premise that the capital costs of construction make new housing more expensive than old housing. Property owners with large debts to their investors are constantly squirming under the imperative to charge as much as possible in rents, while landlords of older buildings whose debts are paid off may have more wiggle room to leave rents be. Market-based housing development, they say, is synonymous with gentrification, displacement, and the sacrifice of Seattle’s soul for the sake of developer profits.
— Casey Jaywork, Seattle Weekly News