Stumptown, meet YIMBYtown.
A local sustainability think tank and a newly-launched housing advocacy group just announced plans to host YIMBYtown, a national pro-housing and development conference, in Portland next April.
The event, which was first hosted in Boulder, Colorado in 2016, is framed around building "fair and sustainable cities." In 2020, organizers say, it'll focus on climate change and community stabilization. It's sponsored by Sightline Institute, a non-profit communications and research center based in Seattle, in collaboration with a grassroots pro-housing group called "Portland: Neighbors Welcome."
The convention gets its name from the acronym YIMBY, meaning "yes in my backyard"; the phrase is claimed by those who advocate development of more accessible and affordable housing as a solution to rapidly increasing rental costs in cities. It's based in a reaction to property owners who object to neighborhood development when it intrudes on their homes—those referred to as to NIMBYs, or "not in my backyard."
Many YIMBY priorities are echoed in Portland's newest policies: rent control, tenant protections, inclusionary zoning policies. But the pro-housing movement has also come under fire from critics, who say its leaders have pushed narratives that lead to gentrification and displacement, or that prioritize market success over community stability.
Aaron Brown, transportation justice advocate and founder of No More Freeways, says those critics have a point: "Yes, we need to build a lot more housing, but we need to do it in a way that doesn't hurt communities, that doesn't encourage displacement, that supports climate goals."
Brown is one of several advocates behind Portland: Neighbors Welcome, which made its official launch alongside YIMBYtown's announcement Wednesday. "Our hosting [the conference] in 2020 is us trying to encourage the conversation towards intersectionality," he says.
"Portland's also made plenty of mistakes," Brown and Madeline Kovacs, Sightline's senior outreach associate, added in an email to WW. "We hope to share with housing advocates from across the country honest reflections of our successes and failures to pursue policies that simultaneously address housing, climate, and racial justice."