Malhotra: The hypocrisy of progressive NIMBYs


If Gainesville progressives truly desired affordable housing for all, they would support pro-housing policies. Many don’t.

Gainesville is at a crossroads when it comes to the future of housing policy. Residents have become sharply divided over what they envision as the future of the city.

In October, city commissioners made the right decision by removing outdated, exclusionary single-family zoning laws. But for many progressives who claim to be dead set on advancing the interests of Gainesville’s most vulnerable residents, NIMBYism (not in my backyard) runs high, threatening the city’s recent progress on housing affordability.

If progressives were true to their values, they would support pro-housing policies that shelter more people, promote walkable communities, and prevent the displacement of long-term residents.

Honest progressives ought to be YIMBYs (YES in my backyard). Unfortunately, many aren’t. They are NIMBYs – residents who speak out against new housing in their communities and actively oppose reforms for increased density. YIMBYs, on the other hand, support upzoning, new housing units in their communities, and adjustments to regulations on parking minimums, lot sizes, setbacks, and more so that the housing shortage can be properly addressed.

At the most recent City Commission meeting on repealing single-family zoning, I listened closely to public commenters who opposed the City’s decision; among the crowd, some comments stood out. “We are bending over backwards for developers,” some said. “This decision will worsen gentrification and displace traditional residents,” others argued. Even more equated the end of single-family zoning to an end to new affordable housing.

I was disappointed to hear these claims and even more disappointed to find out many of the complainers were progressives who claimed to support both affordable housing and lower rents for the poorest renters. The best way to accomplish those goals, as proven time and time again, is to build more housing.

According to the 2020 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis for Gainesville, Gainesville is facing a housing shortage.

HUD estimated that over the next three years, Gainesville residents would demand 4,250 new
housing units, with only 2,465 units under construction to meet that demand. This mismatch meant that rental and home purchase prices would continue to rise unless we accommodated the additional demand. This mismatch has proven itself, with Gainesville facing a 34% increase in the price of single-family homes and 33% increases in rental prices since the study’s publication (zumper.com/rent-research/gainesville-fl).

Many of the progressive complaints at public comment sessions cite the same issues with new developments: not enough affordable housing, too few units, too many units, too many stories, too few stories, too ugly, or too “luxury.”

The list goes on.

Not every new housing development will be perfect. In fact, research shows that the development of all new housing units, even market-rate ones, helps to reduce displacement and temper housing costs in the surrounding area. If we refuse to build new units, existing residents will be outbid by wealthier residents, resulting in the same displacement that progressives promise to prevent.

This duplicity boggles my mind. True progressivism is about change. It is about bucking the status quo to stand up for the little guy. Progressives don’t shy away in the face of a challenge — they embrace it and work to promote smart, sustainable solutions that prioritize people above all else. So why do so many Gainesville progressives fight housing development?

I think it boils down to fear. Fear against gentrification, fear against community change, and fear against making Gainesville a “developer’s playground.” Fear has guided the rationale of so many of our NIMBY progressives, and I urge them to reconsider their position. NIMBYism is regressive; its policies will only worsen the housing shortage, giving landlords and corporate investors more leverage in a manipulated marketplace that favors the wealthy and privileged, not one that affords fair access to all of us.

If we follow the desires of Gainesville’s NIMBY crowd, we will see worsening sprawl, greater displacement of long-term residents, and higher housing prices. NIMBYism’s principles, not followers, are rooted in discriminatory policies that will disenfranchise our most vulnerable Gainesville residents. At its core, NIMBYism offers no long-term solution to the housing crisis.

On the contrary, pro-housing policies reduce housing costs, minimize displacement, and prevent sprawl. They work to protect the environment, encourage the development of a dense, walkable, and vibrant urban core, and support policies that give all residents leverage in the housing marketplace, not just landlords and rich homeowners.

YIMBYism doesn’t belong to any one particular political sphere; it’s an ideology that fights for community change, a more inclusive future, and a democratization of the housing marketplace — all of which embody progressive ideals.

So one must ask: Why are there so many progressive NIMBYs? Perhaps they were never progressive in the first place.

Vishnu Malhotra, Gainesville

Vishnu Malhotra is a lead at Gainesville is for People, a Legal Intern at YIMBY Law, and a UF Habitat for Humanity undergraduate representative.

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  • What if progressivism is a mental illness? It would be better to have more limited symptoms than a full progressivism psychosis like Saco, Poe, etc. One also has to wonder why immigrants and their immediate offspring can’t just come to this country and chill for a few generations instead of acting deranged like Ilhan Omar, like they know what is best for everyone before they have even assimilated into our culture. It seems like the height of childishness combined with ignorance. Close all the borders if we don’t have enough housing.

  • Trendy phrases like “affordable housing” won’t help. Because that’s about subsiding rental units, or a tiny number of owned homes using a lot of public money inefficiently. Worse, if it’s Section 8 (or the new word they call it now), it simply ruins the homestead neighborhoods. That doesn’t help anybody.
    The city pols have been told what we want but they on,y take cues from self-serving special interest investors of developers and NGOs who do not live here.
    This isn’t about student apts near UF, I think they’re fine but many native residents oppose that, too. I don’t agree with those citizens. Students should live near campus, period.

  • They should have never closed the planet down for Covid…they ruined our dollar and economy by printing money and paying people to “stay home and be superhero’s”..Now we have inflation that cannot be undone.
    For every action, there’s an equal an opposite reaction and now we gotta pay the piper for the the WEF’s & UN
    Implementation of the build back better great reset….you will own nothing and be happy. Progressives=
    Communists….this article is commi propaganda implemented on the local level.

      • Bullwinkle, you shouldn’t use “honest” with either of those political ideologies, it is a direct paradoxical description of those you are attempting to identify. It is simply a characteristic they are incapable of understanding, let alone putting to use for the betterment of the community of which they continually, albeit falsely, to care about.

        • The writer used the words “honest progressive”. I was trying to bring attention that progressivism is code for communism…it has nothing to do with progress.

          • Bullwinkle, I figured as much. The problem with liberals, one anyway, is they are hypocrites in their own right. I’ll tell you why I don’t want to do something, liberals will just skirt all around an issue and deflect because they don’t like to be called out for said hypocrisy.

  • Malhotra: “If Gainesville progressives truly desired affordable housing for all, they would support pro-housing policies.”

    One doesn’t have to assume a political position to unravel the sophistry embedded in Malhotra’s sentence. If ‘A’ is true, then ‘B’ must also be true.

    Neither are necessarily true or false and the lengthy, passionate sentiments which follow demonstrate a misunderstanding of the human tendency of taking an abstract, political position does not require a personal position must be the same.

    For example, take this statement: “I believe in freedom of speech.”

    However: “I do not agree with some speech.”

    Then: “I still believe in free speech even that with which I disagree.”

    Malhotra’s presents a view of progressives as being a monochromatic group thinking as one and that does conform to popular media representations. It doesn’t, necessarily, conform to reality. Progressives, like others, can choose to conform to group thinking in the larger view while not forfeiting individual thought.

    It was reported in the Gainesville Sun a month or so ago objections to the ‘affordable housing’ project once planned for the NE part of the city included the fact that 80% of the city’s subsidized housing was in the NE. What those residents needed, according to the Sun report, was more retail and food stores, not more subsidized housing.

    By the way, those who objected were ‘progressives’ who did not support the plan but did support the policy. That isn’t ‘NIMBY,’ that is a position addressing ‘need’ rather than the politic.

    That is one of many examples which support stepping outside the progressive group to engage problem solving on the human level rather than the political.

    It is within the peril of politics that any elected official puts political mantras above the needs of constituents.

    Of course, one – even a progressive – could present pro and con arguments against ‘affordable housing for all’ but those thoughts would be better served in an entry level poly-sci class.

      • Thanks, BW……I think one of the things that helped destroy the Gainesville Sun was the expectation it could somehow remain relevant – without USA Today – in the cacophonic thought pollution in Gainesville demonstrated by the opinion piece.

        How anyone can cite a HUD – one of the most ineffectual agencies in the federal government – market analysis while missing ‘where’ most of the subsidized housing always goes in Gainesville demonstrates something other than human need is the narrative.

        Gentrification of one area at the further expense of NE Gainesville is a prime suspect hidden in the narrative.

  • You know you don’t have to wait for the government’s permission to be YIMBY. If you’re truly progressive, just put a sign in your front yard that says “You may pitch your tent here.” Then we can close Grace and save the county and city millions of dollars a year.

  • “Progressives” are more interested in their financial position, i.e. property values, than helping anyone.

  • Progressives hope to import crime and drugs into previously nice neighborhoods. They can’t fix the problem in the “bad” neighborhoods so, in the interests of their new definition of “equity”, they must assure everyone gets exposed to the same odious risks. Thanks to progressives, we just can’t have nice neighborhoods anymore.

  • Progressives want to destroy single-family neighborhoods. As always, they will lie, cheat, and steal to accomplish their goals. Just don’t listen to their ever-changing BS and mock them when you can.

  • Sophomoric drivel by a transient resident who will be leaving in 2 years or less.

    Progressive policies are about “standing up for the little guy” and “prioritizing people above all else”?

    The “little guy” in this case is nearly the entire population of Gainesville that opposed the destruction of their quiet, peaceful neighborhood that they worked their whole lives to afford.

    The zoning policy was very clearly pushed down our throats against and despite the will of the people, so pretending that this policy prioritized the people of Gainesville in any way is extremely dishonest.

    These policies are actually about scoring points with other liberals in major Democrat-run cities, all of which are oppressive hell-holes that normal people are fleeing in droves.

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