Boston has a crisis of its own making. And it’s the single, biggest challenge to our city and regional economy: The price of housing is too damn high.

Too many smart, talented people are leaving the region. Too many employers can’t find enough workers to fill jobs. Too many residents are stretched thin to pay for housing.

And there’s a very simple reason for it.

Zoning is broken. The city of Boston’s zoning code is needlessly complex. The approval process to build is far too cumbersome.

There are too many local neighborhood groups with a NIMBY-first mindset run by unelected people, or as former Boston City Council member Matt O’Malley humorously called them, “self-appointed guardians for a neighborhood.” They wield far too much power with no public accountability.

“Community benefits” handouts are the pay-to-play name of the game.

Affordable housing advocates often spend too much time arguing for the wrong policies (i.e. rent control) instead of policies aimed at solving the root problem: a lack of housing supply.

The Boston Zoning Code is 4,000-plus pages long and absurdly complex. Good and necessary housing projects take far too long to permit and cost far too much to develop – if they get built at all – which limits supply and drives up the cost of housing.

Yes, Boston has always been a “city of neighborhoods” – and there’s a beauty and history to that, which can and should continue to be celebrated and enhanced. However, our housing crisis is a city-wide (and regional) problem. Neighborhood-by-neighborhood politics led by a vocal minority is a fundamental roadblock to solving it.

Fighting any and all change and NIMBY thinking is just plain selfish. Selfish to young people. Selfish to people with less means. Selfish to my own children’s future in Boston. It’s only sabotaging Boston in the long run.

That is not acceptable anymore.

I’ve seen it firsthand, serving as a commissioner on Boston’s Zoning Commission for the past seven years. The excessive public process and contortions most development projects have to go through to (maybe) get built is borderline absurd.

There are a lot of smart, dedicated urban planners who work for the city. We’re lucky to have such talent, usually working for far less than they could earn in the private sector. They’re working thoughtfully to develop a future-facing zoning code & simplified process.

All they often get is blowback from neighborhood groups that they are “in cahoots with developers.” Hollower words have never been spoken.

Not everybody is going to agree to every piece of a modernized code. That’s life. But a simplified, predictable zoning code for Boston is in all our best interests. It’s time to turn NIMBY to YIMBY. We need to support this effort and encourage Mayor Michelle Wu to push forward. Don’t let a vocal minority speak for the majority who wants a sensible zoning code for the future.

— Michael DiMella is managing partner at Charlesgate Realty and a member of Boston’s Zoning Commission.

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Speak Up for Zoning Reform in Boston

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min