Progressive champion Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) Supply-loving housing reformers are buzzing about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.N.Y.), who is a progressive champion. She released a questionnaire that endorsed a few YIMBY policies.
Last week, her Courage to Change PAC released a 2022 questionnaire asking candidates for endorsement if they are open to eliminating single-family-only zoning and reducing lot sizes.
In the last year @AOC‘s @CouragetoChangeInitially, PAC asked Council candidates if NYPD would cut its budget by $3 billion. But quickly they changed their mind and pledged to lower the budget.
With similar language, the questionnaire for 2022 is available.
— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) January 12, 2022
These are all long-term goals for the country’s YIMBY group, a typically left-leaning coalition but still politically diverse that has decided to eliminate restrictions on the development of new and denser homes as the main cure for America’s high housing prices.
Recent achievements of the YIMBY movement include the passing of legislation in cities and states across the country which allows property owners more land to develop their homes and makes it difficult for neighbors and local governments to stop these developments.
Ocasio Cortez’s most recent questionnaire suggests that she has also been converted to the YIMBY cause.
Curbed In an article entitled “AOC is a YIMBY now,” the congresswoman confidently stated that. This received an appreciative retweet.
AOC just retweeted Curbed’s article on her becoming a YIMBY. pic.twitter.com/EnZO9gWKfe
— Aaron Green (@AaronGuhreen) January 15, 2022
A progressive blogger Bloomberg Noah Smith also saw in this questionnaire Ocasio-Cortez’s YIMBYism, as well as a larger left-wing shift away form an anti-capitalist political ideology that is very anti-development.
This picture of Ocasio Cortez as a fervent and sudden YIMBY convert is complicated by her history of support for zoning reform generally, but also her stridently antidevelopment talk points about construction in her backyard.
Since at least 2019, Ocasio-Cortez is a supporter of zoning reforms. In November of that year, she introduced her A Place to Prosper Act—one of six bills in her A Just Society package.
The Place to Prosper Act, in addition to creating tenant protection policies, and imposing tighter regulations on corporate landlords. It would have also pulled federal highway funds from localities with single-family-only Zoning Laws. This law required that developers include off-street parking for new construction. Large lot sizes were mandated and/or prohibited manufactured housing parks.
Numerous federal lawmakers have proposed bills to tie funding for transportation to the localities’ loosening of their zoning codes. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, which would require federal highway funds to be used for the elimination of large lots and single-family-only zones, may be the most controversial.
Theoretically, this should earn her a lot YIMBY credibility.
Yet, Ocasio Cortez came out against the proposal to build tens or thousands of homes in her district, just one week after she introduced this bill.
It would have required the decking of Sunnyside Yard’s 180-acre railway yard in Queens and then letting developers create a mixture residential, commercial, park, and community spaces on top.
This plan would add 14,000 housing units to a New York City that is housing-starved. One residential test case envisaged 24,000 additional housing units on the site. It also included 7,200 affordable units.
Ocasio Cortez strongly opposed the creation of new housing units as an example “overdevelopment”, which would only make New York City’s affordability issues worse.
“The proposal as it stands reflects a misalignment of priorities: development over reinvestment, commodification of public land over consideration of public good,” wrote Ocasio-Cortez and New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer in a letter to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. The proposed residential high-rises and mid-rises would further worsen a housing crisis, which displaces communities and gives parcels of public land to private developers.
Ocasio-Cortez resigned as a member of the steering committee responsible for the Sunnyside Yard Project’s direction in January 2020.
Michael Hendrix, Manhattan Institute’s director of communications, described Ocasio-Cortez’s concerns about Sunnyside Yard’s cleanliness as “garden-variety NIMBYism”. Reason At the moment.
It’s difficult to imagine how anyone who believes in the benefits of more housing stock as a way to make cities more affordable would also object to thousands of homes being built over rail yards because they could cause displacement and gentrification.
It is clear that there are strong reasons to object to the Sunnyside Yard development. Decking the railyard with developable land would have a lower value than its cost, so the government would need to provide substantial subsidies. Ocasio Cortez, however, doesn’t object to this.
Other, less controversial Queens projects have also been opposed by her. In 2018, she resisted the local developer’s plans to change the zoning to allow him to create a 120-unit apartment complex with Target on the ground level. Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition and that of other local officials led to the development of offices and medical suites.
It could be argued that Ocasio-Cortez views are now more left-leaning than the NIMBYism she was once a part of. She can have zoning legislation introduced one week, and then oppose new apartment construction the next. This suggests that she is able to hold both viewpoints in her head simultaneously.
There have been other instances where socialist politicians and candidates endorsed YIMBY policies to wealthy areas but also included a large amount of left-wing NIMBYism in their plans for their districts or supporters.
San Francisco politician and socialist activist Jackie Fielder endorsed repealing zoning restrictions in wealthy communities like Cupertino and Beverly Hills during her bid to unseat YIMBY champion state Sen. Scott Wiener (D–San Francisco). Fielder also made her opposition to Wiener’s “market-based approach” to housing affordability—which involved legalizing apartment buildings near transit stops—a significant issue in her campaign.
The 2020 presidential campaign platform of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called attention to the racist legacy that zoning laws have left, a well-known and correct YIMBY refrain. Sanders did however support Boston activists who opposed the conversion of a decrepit racetrack to 10,000 units housing, in advance of the Massachusetts presidential primary. (Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Sanders’ presidential bid.)
It’s not only left-leaning politicians who mumble about zoning reform. Ben Carson, President Donald Trump’s housing secretary was content to call himself a YIMBY and advocated for the elimination of zoning restrictions. In 2020, he did a 180° and realized that zoning reform was a left-wing scheme to end the American dream.
Because so many politicians have the ability to speak from both ends of their minds on zoning reform, people need to be careful about giving out the YIMBY labels. There is a risk that genuine supporters of new housing will become partisans for those who indulge in counterproductive NIMBYism. I offer cautionary advice to anyone who has read my coverage on Carson and the zoning reforms that he made at HUD.
Ocasio-Cortez’s housing views are mixed at best when taken as a whole. They are clearly anti-development when it comes to housing policy within her home country. This would lead to some awkward responses if she were required to answer her own PAC questionnaire.