Marcus Seldon: How should the YIMBY movement/urbanists deal with the fact that most Americans say they want to live in a detached single-family home that they own? How do you sell upzoning, walkable neighborhoods, transit-oriented development, and so on to people who largely like (or think they like, at least) the American suburban lifestyle?
MY: Logically, there’s just no contradiction here. It’s clear that there is significant unmet demand to live in New York, Boston, D.C., and San Francisco, and it’s also clear that most people don’t want to live in those cities. Right now, they collectively account for maybe three to four percent of the U.S. population, and in YIMBYtopia, maybe that would go up to five to six percent.
But mostly, the thing I want to sell people on is freedom. It should be legal to build a detached single-family home on any parcel of residentially zoned land in America. But it should also be legal to build a duplex or some rowhouses there. The point of making it legal to build mid-rise apartments isn’t that there’s something incredibly awesome about living in a mid-rise apartment. It’s that in a world of tradeoffs, you might prefer it to an alternative living situation where you have a longer commute or higher expenses.
Yglesias is correct. Yimby is a natural libertarian issue, it’s good for freedom, efficiency and the poor. It’s unfortunate that in recent years there has been some slippage among libertarians to adopt a “conservative” approach to Yimby and immigration by arguing for local and national rights to determine neighborhood and country composition. Sorry, you can twist words all you want, but that isn’t libertarianism it’s collectivism.