The housing crisis has given rise to various debates among the different sections of society in the United States. And, as a result, certain activists have begun a battle over the possibilities of newer developments. You can see the rise of a few common acronyms such as “Yes in My Backyard” (YIMBY) and “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY). The latest acronym to join the bandwagon is PHIMBY or “Public Housing in My Backyard”. So, what’s the agenda of the proponents of this school of thought? And, will they be able to solve the growing housing crisis? Let’s find out more about these social housing activists.  

What does PHIMBY mean?

PHIMBY is short for “Public Housing in My Backyard,” a term believed to have been coined by Jed Parriott – a member of the Los Angeles Democratic Socialists of America.

This movement has attracted a large number of tenants’ rights advocates – lobbying for the construction of subsidized housing schemes across cities. They believe that public housing below the market rate will be beneficial for municipal housing authorities, the taxpayers, and the entire American society – especially in the Bay Area.

How does PHIMBY differentiate from YIMBYS and NIMBYS?

furr out wall partition

NIMBYs staunchly oppose any new housing schemes in the name of urban development. Their logic is that it will drastically change the inherent character of urban communities. Their adversaries, the YIMBYs, support affordable high-density housing – for all income levels. They vehemently back pro-development housing-transit bills such as SB 827. The PHIMBYs may be against SB 827 but are all for affordable housing geared toward low-income people.

Simply put, the YIMBY movement allows developers to build private buildings, the NIMBY movement does not want newer residential buildings at all, and the PHIMBY movement wants to resurrect the ideal of public housing. 

Could PHIMBYs solve the housing problem?

PHIMBYs advocate for increased investment in public and municipal housing. They believe that the beneficiaries should be the low-income communities that are most affected by any housing shortage. They also advocate strengthening tenant protections and rent control apart from better public housing. 

The PHIMBY ideology could prove to be a new ray of light in the NIMBY vs YIMBY debate. It will encourage everyone to seek alternatives to profit-driven private development – a step that’s significant in alleviating the housing crisis.

Read more: The current housing market

Reasons why PHIMBYism may be a boom during the pandemic

There are a few good reasons why the pro-housing PHIMBY movement can help to revitalize the economy. The COVID-19 epidemic has resulted in high unemployment rates. Today, people need stable jobs more than ever before. Any new large-scale construction will lead to new construction job opportunities. As more and more workers get employment, they’ll gain spending capacity on other goods and services. The cycle will ensure that the economy revitalizes. Additionally, this kind of below-market-rate housing will ensure a good and affordable housing supply to most of the working class residing in that area.  

Read more: How the pandemic changed home values 

Reasons why PHIMBYism may face obstacles

traditional neighborhood development benefits

There may be a few political obstacles to the ideas of PHIMBYism. The primary ones are the NIMBYs who object to supportive housing. Some affluent neighborhoods may see subsidized housing as a threat to their existing way of life. The poorer neighborhoods may also resist new homeless shelters and public housing for fear of increasing poverty and further lack of resources in their areas.

The second obstacle is that subsidized housing units in urban areas come at a high cost for the federal government. Moreover, it’s bound to increase the taxpayer bill manyfold. That’s why it’s not easy for the federal government to support such a major domestic spending program. 

Moreover, a few anti-housing advocates use the current COVID-19 situation as a way to argue against public housing. Many of them link population density with the dreaded disease. They argue that less crowded cities have lower infection rates as compared to densely populated areas.

Read more: Traditional neighborhood development

Last thoughts

While NIMBYs (mostly comprising affluent homeowners) aim at abating residential growth in order to keep certain types of people out of their neighborhoods, YIMBYs vociferously support creating denser, taller residential growth. A middle path is taken by the PHIMBYs who are public housing advocates — supporting the building of affordable living arrangements for low-income people. They believe that only such a big step can drastically improve the current housing shortage. 

Read more: Housing indicators to watch for in 2022

If you want a summary of everything discussed, use this infographic


Can the PHIMBY movement solve the housing crisis? was last modified: April 17th, 2023 by Ramona Sinha
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As long as they don’t put “modern houses”, I’m happy, God, what ugly designs