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The idea that Chapel Hill, along with most of the United States, is in the midst of a housing crisis has been established time and time again over recent years. But how to resolve this crisis is still up for debate.

The national conversation surrounding housing has become increasingly dominated by some assumed truths regarding the housing and rental market, the foremost being that there aren't enough homes to go around. 

While this assumption is fair, when considering the 28:1 ratio of vacant homes to unhoused people nationwide, it can be argued that the problem stems from people's inability to access the homes we have rather than an actual lack of them. 

Two major rival factions have arisen from this discourse: NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) and YIMBYs (Yes In My Backyard) — the Montagues and Capulets of the American housing crisis.

NIMBYs are homeowners and renters who object to any form of urban development that might drive down their respective property values, including developments that YIMBYs tend to advocate for. 

As owner-occupiers, they are comparable to a kind of petty bourgeoisie insofar as their private interests are concerned. To most NIMBYs, homes are investments — capital. 

Naturally, the preservation of such investments takes precedence above all else, including projects that may or may not be beneficial to low-income communities. 

Such a mindset has led to some reactionary sentiments prevailing among the traditionally white and affluent NIMBY crowd.

That isn’t to say the YIMBY position is any more righteous, no matter how much it pretends to be. 

YIMBYism supports building more housing and follows the approach that more residences means increased supply and more affordability in the market. 

This perspective paints NIMBYs as the ultimate antagonists of progress— after all, who’d be against more housing?

Many people, it turns out. Because despite support from some well-intentioned left-liberal activists, YIMBYism doesn’t do much in the way of actually making housing more affordable by just advocating for more housing. 

Developers are more likely to build more profitable luxury housing in lieu of affordable units, even when subsidized by local governments. These units often remain vacant and act as investment vehicles for large real estate companies and rich investors. 

It’s no wonder then that developers and landlords toe the YIMBY line. Think about it: why would profit-driven entities be so enthusiastic about building less profitable housing?

It’s past time the people of Verona faced the music— between the small capitalist Montagues and the monopoly capitalist Capulets, neither are our friend. But if both NIMBYs and YIMBYs only contribute to the current housing crisis, then what is the solution?

It’s essential to reframe the housing crisis as a tenants’ rights crisis. North Carolina infamously favors landlords, with rent controls being illegal, among other barriers. Not to mention, many North Carolina legislators currently serving in the House of General Assembly are landlords and/or real estate developers themselves. 

This issue culminates into a convoluted framework of competing interests, and the overwhelming feeling that there’s little North Carolina tenants — both housed and unhoused — can do to improve their living situation. That is, unless tenants can learn to collaborate and build their influence, as they have historically. 

By working toward solidarity among tenants of all stripes, Americans can take a step toward not just affordable housing, but the establishment of housing as a human right. Until then, don’t give into the NIMBY and YIMBY binary— Verona is better off without it.

@dthopinion |

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