A million-strong progressive group wants to dramatically curtail private development in an effort to solve the nation’s affordable housing problem.

You reap what you sow. And after driving up rents and prices to insane levels thanks to decades of blocking any and all new residential construction, NIMBY homeowners in Massachusetts and across the country have succeed in sparking an extreme counterreaction. 

The People’s Action Coalition, which claims a million members in activist groups spread across 30 states, has rolled out a “radical” plan for a wholesale restructuring of the nation’s housing market. 

After huddling over the summer at a retreat in Upstate New York, the activists unveiled their indeed very radical plan to remake the housing market as we know it, called the Homes Guarantee, just in time for peak Democratic presidential primary season. 

The group’s plan calls for “universal rent control,” taxes on flippers, out-of-state or overseas buyers and land speculators, and a “People’s Commission,” featuring an eclectic mix of White House officials, Congress, as well as “individuals experiencing homelessness,” to help lead the charge. 

The plan’s core is well more than a trillion dollars in new spending and 12 million units of what the People’s Action Coalition calls “social housing” – basically a fancified, European-style label for subsidized apartments rented out at belowmarket rates, better known in these less enlightened parts as affordable housing. 

“As long as speculation of land and real estate is commonplace, and housing is commodified, the housing and rental markets will continue to be unstable and predatory,” the plan states. 

Blame Government, Not Capitalism 

No, the Homes Guarantee is not a socialist takeover of the real estate market, despite what the Trumpian blowhards will surely claim. 

But the plan is nonetheless a sweeping misreading of what ails the housing market whose solutions, by trying to box out private development, would likely make things even worse. 

This grand housing market revamp would heap a thick layer of federal bureaucracy onto a housing market already suffocating under piles of restrictive local zoning rules and regulations. 

The mess were in now was not caused by a failure of capitalism, but by zoning regulations and other restrictions that have thorough distorted the laws of supply and demand. 

Moreover, the People’s Action Coalition plan gives insufficient attention to the role NIMBY homeowners and their accomplices on countless select boards, city councils and other local bodies have played in blocking not just badly needed affordable units, but also desperately needed market-rate construction as well. 

The plan acknowledges potential opposition from anti-development suburbs none too eager to see millions of “social housing” units built in their midst. 

However, the solution envisioned by the People’s Action Coalition is utopian, to say the least. They call upon the least functional legislative body in the country, the United States Congress, to pass a “social housing zoning law” that would bar cities and towns from zoning out affordable housing. 

Thank, Don’t Attack Developers  

Those protections apparently wouldn’t extend to proposals by private developers, who are responsible for the vast majority of housing construction in the country, including affordable housing. 

Scott Van Voorhis

But it fits with the narrative put forth by progressive activists, who see the federal government as the savior and the private market, and in particular “exploitative developers and builders, as the bad guys. 

“Gentrification is sweeping our nation’s cities, often aided by local governments,” the People’s Action Coalition contends in its Homes Guarantee proposal, which blasts economic development as a corrupt promise” that transfers “public wealth to private actors.” 

In fact, one aim of the plan is to discourage private development and replace it with governmentsubsidized construction of new, rentcontrolled apartments by local nonprofits. 

To that end, under the plan the federal government would pump another $200 billion into a “Community Control and Anti-Displacement Fund” that will put “people over profit” and “prioritize nonprofit, alternative ownership housing models.” 

NIMBYs Are the Real Cause 

As out there and utopian as the People’s Action Coalition and its Homes Guarantee are, it should also be a wakeup call that dramatic action is indeed needed at all levels of government to address the nation’s dire housing crisis. 

The NIMBY opposition to any and all new housing development, in its own way, has been very bit as radical and distorting as the People’s Action Coalition’s dream of a socialist housing market. 

Housing that would bring in families with children is demonized as a parasitic drain on public coffers, with opponents blasting the supposed additional costs in public services, from schools to police, despite countless studies that have found modest impacts at most. 

Proposals for market-rate apartment projects with a percentage of subsidized units mixed in for local teachers, nurses and police officers are attacked in racist terms, with outlandish comparisons to innercity public housing projects and fears the subsidized units will lead to an increase in crime and drug use. 

For too long, the local loudmouths and racists have held sway, opposing any and all new housing and driving up prices and rents beyond the reach of many. 

Extreme behavior often begets more extreme behavior. And with the emergence of the Homes Guarantee and its proposal for a heavy government hand in the real estate market, we are reaping the whirlwind from years of NIMBY nonsense. 

Scott Van Voorhis is Banker & Tradesman’s columnist; opinions expressed are his own. He may be reached at sbvanvoorhis@hotmail.com.  

Blame NIMBYs for Leftist Backlash on Housing Crisis

by Scott Van Voorhis time to read: 4 min