As of January 1, 2020, People for Housing OC joined the YIMBY Action Network. We have expanded the scope of our work from an education and advocacy org to now leveraging our members' voices to drive political change, enabling more housing construction in Orange County. Joining this larger network of YIMBY allies was both a strategic decision and a personal one. This is my story and why I joined YIMBY Action. I hope you will join, too! In doing so, you will join YIMBY allies across the state in building the social and political infrastructure needed to #BuildMoreHousing and end the shortage. JOIN TODAY!
I feel lucky. My family was able to buy a home during the last recession. Before the recession, I was a stay-at-home-mom, and my husband is a teacher, and there were few-if-any condos in the area where we needed to live. When the recession hit, suddenly housing became “affordable.” While other people were losing their jobs, my husband’s public sector position was somewhat buffered from the downturn in the economy. Even with the paycut all teachers were taking, we could finally afford a home in our town. I felt like I won the lottery. We were lucky.
Luck is not based on merit; it doesn’t come to you because you did all the right things, got a college degree, a good job, played by the rules. Luck means that you can lose it. Luck means that you’re kids can’t rely on it. Luck can be cruel and destabilizing. We won the lottery of time in the recession. But now that times are better, our school district struggles to hold on to teachers just like my husband.
In October 2016, I went to the SCAG Housing Summit and for the first time grasped the scale of the housing shortage. I heard wonky terms that described what I saw was missing in my community-- “Workforce Housing," "Attainable Housing," and "Missing Middle Housing." I heard Sonja Trauss talk about the YIMBY movement, and I decided that someone needed to bring this to Orange County.
The following month, I went to a planning commission meeting and saw for myself the ugly face of NIMBYism. I was trained as an urban planner, but I had worked on state and regional projects; never local government. People came out with petitions and t-shirts to fight a much-needed apartment building. They sent spit flying when they spoke because they were so angry that someone would dare turn acres of asphalt on a closed car dealership into new homes. Preserving the status quo was better than having more people, more cars, and more traffic.
Armed with my new information about the housing shortage, I stood at the podium and made an argument about why the city council should approve this project. California has a housing shortage; this is a good location for density; it revitalizes the area. Because of voices like mine, the city council approved it, and it is under construction today.
I keep fighting because I am lucky to have stable housing. My family is insulated from the rising costs of housing, and so are most of the opponents of housing. Most bought years ago, or maybe during the recession. How can those of us 40+ tell the younger generations they need to “work harder?” It is we who need to make room for future generations, for the people who work in our communities, for people who are unhoused. We need to make room, and we can, and our communities will be better for it. That means saying yes to tall buildings; yes to density; yes to missing middle housing; and yes to more neighbors.
People for Housing Orange County
A YIMBY Action Network Organization