No matter where they fall on the political spectrum, every American should be able to agree on one of our nation’s biggest challenges: We face a dangerous shortage of affordable housing.
Notwithstanding rising mortgage rates slowing the housing market boom, many places throughout the country still face incredibly low inventories that keep prices high. Coupled with the inflationary prices of goods and services across the board, buying a new home is financially out of reach for many Americans.
The good news? There’s a bipartisan effort underway to help ease it — and it starts with saying four simple words: “Yes in my backyard.”
That’s the full title of the YIMBY Act, a bill currently making its way through Congress. As you might guess, this legislation is aimed at tackling one of the main causes of our affordable housing shortage: NIMBYism, where patchwork rules and regulations set by numerous jurisdictions are intended to restrict housing supply, discourage new development, and keep out new homeowners or renters — especially from lower- and middle-income backgrounds.
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It’s no secret that those policies have done a lot of damage to the pursuit of the American dream.
For example, zoning and permitting restrictions often make it much more expensive to build apartments and multifamily homes. And those costs are pushed onto the people who rely on them — which helps explain why nearly half of all renter households spend more than 30% of their income on housing alone.
It’s not just renters or first-time homebuyers who suffer, either. Experts have found that NIMBY land use regulations reduce US gross domestic product by upwards of 1.5% annually. That’s billions of dollars that American workers, families, and businesses are losing out on each year because of unnecessary and unfair government red tape.
Let’s be clear: The solution isn’t to give politicians in Washington the power to decide on new one-size-fits-all housing regulations. In fact, giving more control to Congress or DC bureaucrats is the quickest way to make sure that our housing troubles go from bad to worse.
Instead, the YIMBY Act would shine a light on bad local policies by requiring governments that receive federal housing grants to track when and where these regulations are being created. Not only will that give us a clearer picture of how widespread this problem really is, but it will empower voters to hold their local leaders accountable for promoting those bad ideas.
Both sides of the aisle recognize the need for a reform like this. White House economists under President Donald Trump claimed that “a key driver of the housing unaffordability problem is the overregulation of housing markets by State and local governments.” And more recently, President Joe Biden’s team reiterated that “exclusionary zoning laws [cause] more expensive housing and fewer homes being built.”
We can’t waste that kind of bipartisan moment. The YIMBY Act would be a crucial first step towards easing this shortage and moving towards a more commonsense approach to housing.
Let’s pass the YIMBY Act into law as soon as possible — and Americans from all political stripes deserve for their representatives in Congress to help make that happen.
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US Rep. Mike Flood represents Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District.