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St. Petersburg’s rising popularity as the premier place to live, work and play has brought new developments to our neighborhoods that meet the need for more housing but often generate opposition. While many see our growth as a sign of success, and most welcome the idea of more affordable housing options, we also hear the common response: “Not in my backyard!” We know that change is inevitable in our growing city, and a deficit of affordable housing means we must find ways to move forward together.
In December 2019, I wrote an article on this topic for St. Pete Catalyst for the Catalyze 2020 series. “From NIMBY to YIMBY” suggests that finding a path to saying “Yes in my backyard” can inspire meaningful conversations that lead to smart growth and stronger neighborhoods. I posed a question to Catalyst readers: When presented with a new development in your community, what does “Yes” look like?
The answer may be in YIMBY St. Pete, an affordable housing proposal created by local resident and community leader Jillian Bandes. Details can be found at yimbystpete.com. YIMBY St. Pete offers a policy-based approach that encourages developers to create more affordable housing, rather than relying on government subsidies to fund it. Here are the proposal’s five points for taking a YIMBY approach through policy:
- Upzoning A zoning change would allow multiple units of housing, such as duplexes, to be built on one lot rather than only allowing one single-family home, increasing our housing inventory while bringing down costs for better affordability.
- Inclusionary Zoning New housing developments would be required to include a specific percentage of units designated for families with low to moderate incomes in exchange for higher density allowances.
- Combining parcels. If two or more parcels can be combined, it creates more opportunities for building townhomes, small multi-family developments, and other “Missing Middle” housing that matches the scale of the neighborhood.
- Shared-equity home ownership. Co-ops are rising in popularity because they are structured to maintain affordability through shared ownership.
- Adapted architectural design standards. Design standards focused on multi-family construction would lead to developments that are compatible in style and scale, blending in with the neighborhoods where they are built.
Each of these ideas is bold on its own, making it worthwhile to take a deep dive into each one and ask, “Is this what ‘Yes’ could look like?” We might find that a combination of two or three of these policies can be the formula we need to make real progress on affordable housing. Let’s make “Yes” the goal, start the conversation, and see what happens.