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Opinion: Putting the lie to YIMBY mantra ‘Build, baby, build!’… Facts show unbridled market-rate development spurs gentrification

BY ANDREW BERMAN | Our nation’s politics in the 21st century have been roiled by pervasive misinformation campaigns — about stolen elections, conspiracy theories, vaccine efficacy and other critical issues. Some genuinely believe these wildly misinformed views, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, while others cynically concoct false claims to advance their own self-interest.

We see the same dynamic locally around the hot-button issue of housing affordability. Our city faces an ever-growing problem of housing prices getting further out of reach for a larger and larger segment of the population. One school of thought loosely self-identified as “YIMBY” (“Yes In My Backyard,” implying people happy to do their fair share for the greater good, unlike their opponents) forcefully espouses the theory that the problem is a constraint in supply. They argue that simply removing barriers to increased housing production will bring prices down for everyone, putting more good housing within reach for a more socioeconomically and racially diverse group of people, especially in increasingly expensive cities.

Problem is, time and again, this is shown not to be the case — that unfettered market-rate housing production not only doesn’t bring housing prices down, but can actually drive it up, and drive out lower-income residents and decrease diversity. In spite of this overwhelming evidence, however, these YIMBYs cling to this belief, heaping scorn upon anyone who disagrees.

The latest evidence? For years local YIMBYs have praised Jersey City as the shining example of YIMBYism within the New York metropolitan area, where new housing has been churned out at a much higher rate than in New York City or almost anywhere else in the region. According to them, Jersey City is doing what’s needed to bring housing prices down.

But now a new study shows that Jersey City, with its copious new housing production, is now the most expensive city in the United States — surpassing New York City, which has what YIMBYs would argue is the lower housing production that should be driving prices up.

And more than housing prices have changed in Jersey City. According to Census figures, during the 2010-to-2020 period of explosive housing production there, both the percentage and raw number of African American residents of the city decreased markedly, while both the number and percentage of non-Hispanic whites increased.

This phenomenon is not unique to Jersey City. Within New York City, Brooklyn is the city’s “YIMBYest” borough, with by far the most new housing production from 2010 to 2020. During that period, it also saw the highest increases in housing prices, as well as the largest increase in the number of non-Hispanic white residents, and the largest decreases in the number or percentage of Black and Hispanic residents.

On a neighborhood level, parts of the city with the most new housing production also often had the most expensive housing, while nearby areas with comparatively less housing production due to zoning or landmarking restrictions often had similar or lower housing prices — again undermining the YIMBY argument.

And lest one thinks this is some odd New York-area phenomenon, Austin, Texas, has reportedly produced the most new housing units per capita of any major city in the United States. As it’s done so, it’s also become one of the least affordable places in the country, with the steepest increases in housing prices

This is a more than theoretical battle. This YIMBY philosophy drove the Soho/Noho/Chinatown upzoning in late 2021, and was a big part of the justification for the plan espoused by its supporters, like Councilmember Carlina Rivera and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio. (The plan has not yet produced a single unit of housing, affordable or otherwise, even as three different development projects have moved forward within its boundaries.) This dubious theory also undergirds not-yet-specified plans by Mayor Adams’s administration to increase market-rate housing production in New York City.

So who and what are behind this misinformation campaign that consistently ignores empirical data and facts on the ground? Some of its proponents are those who genuinely care about affordability and diversity, and are desperately latching on to any promise of relief wherever they may find it. But a large share of the impetus behind this approach comes from big real estate interests, who benefit the most from removing barriers to their unfettered ability to build as much of the most expensive housing as possible. And, as we know, the real estate industry holds tremendous sway over the levers of government, which ultimately makes these decisions.

Of course the answer to the affordability crisis is not to do nothing, nor is it simply to prevent any new market-rate housing from being built. But the overwhelming evidence shows that just letting more market-rate housing be built not only won’t help the cause of affordability — it may hurt it. Clearly, we need a more targeted and varied approach, that actually results in the creation of new affordable housing, while taking steps to preserve existing affordable housing — which is disappearing in increasing numbers every day, often to make way for the new expensive housing that YIMBY policies create.

Berman is executive director, Village Preservation.


  1. Arianna Arianna August 11, 2022

    Thank you for this really interesting and well thought-out article, Mr Berman. There is something inspiring about seeing data that supports an impression that one has gleaned through observation or a “feeling.” Thank you for doing the work.

  2. Paul W. Haug Paul W. Haug August 8, 2022

    Tokyo and NYC = apples and oranges.

  3. Margot E Margot E August 5, 2022

    Simple fact: There is FINITE land.
    We need to stop talking as if it is endless and the only fight is how we are using it. We need millions of TRUE affordable housing. 80/20 — a few hundred in dedicated buildings here and there is not going to get it….every plot….every apt in a new building that is not affordable is a lost chance. Even if every apt being built was now affordable…we might not have enough and it would be decades in the doing.

    80% of society is working class. A single adult should be able to live simply but comfortably in a one BR. Instead we work multiple jobs, have roommates, live in multigenerational homes. More and more people can’t get a bigger apt when they have kids.

    What the rich are doing is skewing the income range. Middle income = $250K… . NO — that is NOT working class or middle income — which should be defined by a SINGLE income, not a couple’s. $15/hr is 30K. Latest news — avg. apt rent is $5K, which is 60K. All the classic bastion jobs of the middle class — teachers, unions, etc — are NOT making $250K.

    There will NEVER be enough apts, YIMBIES… There will never be a glut — so demand will always outstrip supply. More market-rate is just that.

    They become affordable over time?? Um, NO…that is a funny way of looking at it.

    The $600 apt 50 years ago…today that seems very affordable. But not because it depreciated — but because everything around it skyrocketed. When you are talking about rentals…depreciation means nothing. That is an owner metric. Maybe it might affect the selling price…but then again…since supply will always be short…probably not.

    Nor do we need to sell our historical souls to make progress. We can preserve and repurpose.

    • Spencer Heckwolf Spencer Heckwolf August 6, 2022

      You should look at the Tokyo housing market. Rents have been affordable for 20+ years because they allow constant new construction of many different types of market-rate units.

      • Paul W. Haug Paul W. Haug August 8, 2022

        You cannot compare NYC to Tokyo.

  4. Nancy Sheran Nancy Sheran August 5, 2022

    When it’s your affordable apartment that is going to be demolished to make way for a new luxury apartment building, you don’t care about averages, or other theoretical statistics. You just want to be able to move into another good affordable apartment in your neighborhood. This is no longer possible in NYC. The government’s approach to creating a larger stock of affordable housing and maintaining existing affordable housing has to be hybrid — including government subsidies for affordable developments and conversions of existing buildings. And affordable apartments must be not only for homeless people, but also for people who have low- to middle-incomes.

  5. JF Hyer JF Hyer August 4, 2022

    Walking down Mercer between Bleecker and Houston the other day – this is alongside of the towering walls of NYU’s green-glass, multi-pronged monstrosity – I recalled Erin Hussein’s prediction that Soho would soon be filled with such towers, thanks to the rezoning. One person’s name keeps me from full-on despair: Andrew Berman.

  6. Proud NIMBY Proud NIMBY August 3, 2022

    The chief reason for the housing shortage is that the likes of the shills from Open NY flock to the city from wealthy suburbs and lily-white small towns.

    They gentrified LES, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Central Brooklyn, etc., displacing countless working- and middle-class families, some of whom have lived here for generations. They don’t care. It’s all about them.

    No matter how many apartments are built, there will never be enough housing supply to meet the demands of all the kids fresh out of college who want to move to the Big City.

    We should not ruin historic districts, our neighborhoods and our NY soul to benefit real-estate development lobbying firms like Open NY and their fellow travelers.

    • Spencer Heckwolf Spencer Heckwolf August 4, 2022

      Screw young people with dreams, screw immigrants looking for a better life, screw people feeling oppression. Freeze the city in Amber because, yeah, that’s gross.

      • Proud NIMBY Proud NIMBY August 4, 2022

        Immigrants don’t gentrify neighborhoods. Newbies from wealthy suburbs do, pushing out these very same immigrants.

        Oppressed people don’t gentrify neighborhoods. Newbies from wealthy suburbs do, pushing out the oppressed and the poor.

        I know several elderly people forced out of Greenpoint/Williamsburg by “young people with dreams” (and wealthy parents.)

        Let me guess, Mr. Heckwolf. I bet you come from a wealthy suburb. Right or wrong?

        • Spencer Heckwolf Spencer Heckwolf August 6, 2022

          My roommate is an immigrant and makes twice what I make. Am I gentrifying NYC and he isn’t? #NIMBYLogic

          • Proud NIMBY Proud NIMBY August 6, 2022

            I didn’t ask where your roommate came from.
            I asked where you came from.
            I bet you come from a wealthy, white suburb.
            Am I right or wrong?
            Your continued silence is deafening.

          • Proud NIMBY Proud NIMBY August 14, 2022

            Actually, Spencer grew up in the affluent suburb of Laguna Niguel, a hilltop bedroom community in Orange County, 73% white and 1.2% black.

            The average 2020 household income is $152,396. In contrast, the median US income is $67,521. Two-car garages are de rigueur there and the local car dealership is a Mercedes-Benz.

            His home is located between the mean streets of Laguna Beach and San Juan Capistrano.

            It must have been tough for Spencer growing up, driving home from the beach, having to fight off the swallows invading his community every spring.

            Why do you think the ruff-tuff creampuff, otherwise so vocal, especially challenging senior citizens to a street brawl, refused to answer the simple question of where he emigrated from?

  7. LES3025 LES3025 August 3, 2022

    I know I am giving this piece more attention that it deserves, but people should recognize that it has at least three fundamental flaws that anti-YIMBY arguments often ignore. It fails to recognize the existence of a regional housing market, it fails to understand how averages work, and it fails to account for timing of housing construction and depreciation.

    Housing markets are regional, not local. Demand for housing comes in significant part from proximity to jobs and amenities. Someone who works in FiDi can live just as easily in FiDi, Brooklyn or Jersey City. Building in one place wouldn’t be expected to make that place less expensive when people in the region can just move to that place; those new buildings are just making up for unmet demand elsewhere in the region. When one place in the region allows for construction, all the regional development pressure goes there and the result is creation of a lot of high-end housing. The entire New York metro region has underbuilt relative to growth for decades. For example, the Furman Center found that from 2000 to 2016, the number of jobs in the city grew by 16% but the amount of housing stock only grew by 8% ( And housing growth is worse when you look regionally at eastern Queens, Long Island and Westchester. Jersey City is doing its part, but it can’t make up for this regional shortage all by itself. Here’s an article that explains in plain English why larger-scale upzoning than we do would help, and why what we’re seeing in Jersey City is what would be expected given how we currently do zoning:

    This piece also makes an illogical leap from the average price going up to “letting more market-rate housing be built not only won’t help the cause of affordability — it may hurt it.” That isn’t how averages work. The study referenced in the NYT isn’t clear whether it uses mean or median for the average but, either way, if you add more high-end housing to a market, the average price will go up because you added apartments that are more expensive than the prior average. But that doesn’t say anything about the impact on the price of existing housing. The price of existing housing could go down, but in the average that reduction would be offset by the addition of new expensive housing to the average. Essentially all recent studies suggest this is exactly what happens (for example:;; New market-rate housing helps reduce prices over all, and there really isn’t any legitimate debate otherwise at this point.

    This op-ed also ignores that new housing should depreciate over time and become more naturally affordable. It used to be (and in some places still is) that affordable housing is just market-rate housing that was built a while ago. There are tons of examples of developments that were built as luxury housing in the 1950s and 1960s being affordable housing today ( The problem in New York is that we haven’t built much housing, especially relative to population and job growth, in the past 50 years. So old housing continues to appreciate. This doesn’t happen in places like Japan, where, due to the volume of construction (and other factors), housing consistently depreciates and often has no resale value (

    This isn’t to say we should just build more market-rate housing and wait 50 years until it becomes affordable. Low- and moderate-income people need housing solutions now and money should be spent on that. But we’re in the position we are because we didn’t build enough new housing 50 years ago. We shouldn’t repeat that failure today by blocking construction of market-rate housing that is needed to ensure we have a healthier housing market in the future.

    For their part, YIMBYs should recognize that upzoning alone isn’t the solution. But pretty much every YIMBY I know supports some form of rent regulation, social housing, supportive housing, affordable housing subsidies and more. “Build, baby, build” is just a caricature that ignores the actual arguments that YIMBYs are making.

    • The Village Sun The Village Sun Post author | August 3, 2022

      “Building in one place wouldn’t be expected to make that place less expensive when people in the region can just move to that place; those new buildings are just making up for unmet demand elsewhere in the region.”

      So building more market-rate housing in Soho/Noho and the Lower East Side would create affordable housing in…Queens? Or where?

      • LES3025 LES3025 August 3, 2022

        Building more in SoHo/NoHo and the LES puts downward pressure on rents in the entire region. But I think the SoHo rezoning was estimated to add something like 3,500 units. And it’s going to take years for those to be built. When there is a present-day regional housing deficit in the hundreds of thousands, that alone isn’t going to make much of a dent, the same way Jersey City by itself isn’t making much of a dent.

        That’s why my point is that although it is good and necessary to do the SoHo rezoning (or build like Jersey City is), it isn’t sufficient. And no YIMBY ever said it was. It needs to be much larger scale and paired with other housing solutions, like rent regulation, social housing, supportive housing and affordable housing subsidies.

      • Spencer Heckwolf Spencer Heckwolf August 3, 2022

        Yes, exactly. Market-rate housing in wealthy neighborhoods stops gentrification in less-wealthy neighborhoods.

      • JQ LLC JQ LLC August 4, 2022

        I’m from Queens, everything Typhin Steel 3025 says is a lie, rents have exploded here too. He sounds like he’s got a guilty conscience pushing this YIMBY bullshit narrative.

        • LES3025 LES3025 August 4, 2022

          You seem confused. The city isn’t doing what I want to do in terms of zoning and building. It’s mostly doing what you and Berman are saying we should do. If rents are exploding (and they are), that’s a failure of your approach, not mine.

          • JQ LLC JQ LLC August 6, 2022

            No, it’s because of the optics of superfluous hyper-development of luxury public housing towers, which is caused by zoning and building that was lobbied by the Open New York cult. Long Island City’s tower pestilence has driven up rents in Queens — it’s a FACT.

  8. “We need a new approach” How about using Google to find an approach before writing your op-ed, Andrew? Or is this all about just finger-wagging at any development and upzoning Downtown?

  9. Spencer Heckwolf Spencer Heckwolf August 3, 2022

    Andrew Berman is a high-paid lobbyist. It’s his literal job to write nonsense like this. He is a proponent of misinformation and BS.

    • Patricia Melvin Patricia Melvin August 3, 2022

      Nooooo, not even close. Andrew Berman is a tried and true fighter for our neighborhoods.

      • Ground Control Ground Control August 4, 2022

        Andrew Berman is a male Jane Jacobs. I shudder to think what the Village and Downtown Manhattan would look like without him! All the historic brownstones that America’s celebs have (now) flocked to would never live in these cookie-cutter glass boxes the YIMBYs on this comment page want to build in contextually zoned residential neighborhoods — wiping out the legacy of New York as well as the communities that so many of us live in and take care of. In all my time in NY, which is a long history, I have never seen prices come down because of relentless construction! I’ve only seen them go up! But like the MAGA crowd, it behooves the REBNY crowd to believe their own PR.

      • Marguerite Martin Marguerite Martin August 5, 2022

        Yes he is a great advocate for our community.
        We are very fortunate to have him.

    • JQ LLC JQ LLC August 4, 2022

      The New York Post confirmed the blowback of unaffordability caused by these luxury public housing towers. Reality confirmed this too. Maybe use your ire against the real estate market speculator fabricators instead of an op-ed that hurts your YIMBY feelings and deep-seated guilt for your support of these monstrous housing policies

    • Hélène VolatH´ Hélène VolatH´ August 5, 2022

      That is NOT true, A. Berman is a strong and articulate defender of our neighborhood! Unlike Ms. Rivera, who can’t keep a promise and who is in the pocket of money. I wish A. Berman would be our next Mayor.

    • Marydene Davis Marydene Davis August 5, 2022

      You’re the one spreading misinformation, not Andrew Berman. He has been a fighter for the common good for years.

    • Buddy V. Buddy V. August 5, 2022

      Very “I know you are, but what am I?”, Spence.

    • Lustig Kurren Lustig Kurren August 7, 2022

      Without more detail and sources, your comment is only “misinformation and BS”.

      • LES3025 LES3025 August 8, 2022

        Interesting that you chose to respond to Spencer’s comment, which is absolutely correct, rather than mine, which provided plenty of additional detail and sources. Curious.

    • fuelgrannie fuelgrannie August 14, 2022

      Spencer, you are a member of the nonprofit Open New York, which is a small and unpopular real estate development lobbying group, founded by your friend, real estate developer Sven Carlos Thypin, a steel heir who owns hundreds of properties in New York City. If anyone is a lobbyist here, it’s you not Andrew Berman

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