Housing Policy

Joe Biden's $2 Trillion Jobs Plan Endorses 'YIMBY Grants'

The president endorses a competitive grant program that would reward localities for loosening their restrictive zoning codes.

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There's not a lot to please libertarians in President Joe Biden's $2 trillion American Jobs Plan. But one item might attract some free marketeers' support: a YIMBY ("yes in my backyard") grant program that would encourage localities to loosen restrictions on new development.

"Exclusionary zoning laws—like minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing—have inflated housing and construction costs," explains a White House fact sheet. "President Biden is calling on Congress to enact an innovative, new competitive grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to eliminate such needless barriers."

The idea of bribing localities into allowing more development is not original to the Biden administration. It has been gaining currency with lawmakers of both parties for several years now. Barack Obama's administration suggested just such a program in 2016. And Donald Trump's initial proposal for reforming fair housing regulations raised the possibility of giving extra grant money to jurisdictions that became more affordable through deregulation. (In 2020, the Trump administration reversed course and went all-in on a "save the suburbs" campaign message.)

In 2018, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) introduced a housing bill that would have devoted $10 billion to rewarding areas that cut developers' red tape. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) released a bill this year, co-sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R–Ohio), that would create a $300 million a year "YIMBY grant" program.

The bipartisan YIMBY Act, first introduced in 2019, would have required recipients of federal housing grants to report create five-year plans laying out what liberalizing land use policies they'll adopt (including such reforms as ditching minimum parking space requirements or bans on duplexes) and whether they followed through on that plan. The bill passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate.

Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) has touted an even more aggressive bill, the HOME Act, that not only would have required the recipients of federal housing and transportation funding to create plans to make housing more "inclusive"; it would have stripped jurisdictions of that funding if they didn't follow through. Biden endorsed Booker's HOME Act during the campaign, though his American Jobs Program appears to be taking a softer approach. How effective that approach will really hinge on the details, including just how large any YIMBY grant program will be.

Some housing experts argued that Warren's $10 billion program would be too small to get the most restrictive jurisdictions to change their zoning laws. Klobuchar's $300 million program would obviously offer even less of an incentive.

Then again, a grant program large enough to get localities to change their zoning laws would also probably be too much additional federal spending for most libertarians to support.

There's also the question of how appropriate it is for the federal government to try to nudge jurisdictions on housing policy in the first place. The power to regulate land use is supposed to be the domain of the state and local governments. Reforms to restrictive zoning codes would ideally come from those levels of government, not from Washington.

Whether or not this particular idea has merit—and whether or not it actually makes it into the final bill—it's refreshing to see the new administration pay some attention to the ways restrictions on land use help drive up the costs of housing. It is, if nothing else, more sensible than most of the other ideas being tossed around for the American Jobs Plan.

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  1. Booker (D–N.J.) has touted an even more aggressive bill, the HOME Act, that not only would have required the recipients of federal housing and transportation funding to create plans to make housing more “inclusive”

    Cory, the proper term is now “equitable”. Please do try to keep up.

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  2. If you make the worm big enough, it completely hides the hook.

    1. But remember the narrative, it was Trump that everyone hated.

    2. Most popular president in all of human history!

      1. More and more each day!

  3. We’re in end stage capitalism. We’re basically done. There’s just not much else to do. It’s time to retire. We should be slowing down not speeding up with massive spending boondoggles. (Yes there are some lucrative opportunities in welding and robotics that will give you an extra few years before you get automated out of existence. But there are no big discoveries left – unless you already have a billion dollars and well connected friends.)

    There will be no way to pay back this debt. At this point we should just spend money on retirement to leave jobs for others to work and support themselves so that we can obviate big government and charity completely. This will also reduce greenhouse emissions. Yes I know it sucks (soylent green, yada yada). But it’s the only way.

    1. Have you noticed that older actors are increasingly taking roles that would normally be reserved for younger actors? A lot of Taken movies, endless Rambos in his 70’s, there was a spate of movies featuring amalgamations of action stars a few years ago.

      Just something I noticed recently, which speaks to much the same phenomena as you point out. People are retiring later, holding onto large houses later, taking larger and larger salaries in those later career years.

      There has been much to say about the younger generations living at home longer and having much less wealth at the same age as previous generations, but not as much is said about the role of older generations in that.

      1. True. Also old people are the richest generation in history. They can easily afford to care for themselves and their needy peers without selling their own grandkids into decades of debt slavery. We must end social security and medicare. (Current national debt is around $30 trillion, averaging $200,000 per taxpayer. Not that I have anything against bankruptcy. And yes slash ‘defense’ too.)

        1. So sorry you two losers haven’t been able to figure out a way to make a decent life for yourselves.

          1. “The ‘losers’ shall inherit the earth.”

        2. Sock puppets talking to each other, so cute.

  4. Under Biden’s establishments start a small business is big business. It takes too much to get the permits, and follow the regulations. I started all of my businesses from home and ignored the rules. Before the government found out I had built enough business to support the costs of joining the, officially in business, businesses. I could never do that in this day and age because there is too much government regulation. The Obama Regime’s rules and regulations made it to onerous to financially survive, so I closed up all five of my businesses and laid off 39 employees.

  5. If they let me build 30 foot fences so I don’t have to look jumble next door I’m all for it 😛

  6. “There’s not a lot to please libertarians in President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan. But one item might attract some free marketeers’ support: a YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) grant program that would encourage localities to loosen restrictions on new development.”

    Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

    You must be joking. What’s next, “Christian Britschgi brings you the upside of 9/11, Sandy Hook, and Covid-19”?!

    This is wholesale dipshit bothsideism. In Britschgi’s case, I don’t think we’re talking about somebody who subconsciously has trouble justifying whatever complicity he shares for Biden coming to power. I think he’s glad Biden won. Nothing that’s happened so far has changed his opinion, and nothing probably ever will–no matter how bad it gets.

    1. Britschgi’s whole shtick for this magazine is largely bitching against local and state government regulations that prevent developers from dropping an 8-plex in a neighborhood of SFHs. Not only are Biden’s string-pullers OK with that (so long as those apartments aren’t going into their ranchette and hobby farm neighborhoods), they’ll provide Federal government money to help the developer fill those properties.

      Of course Britschgi is happy Biden won.

  7. I’m curious to find out what corporation paid Christian Britschgi for his opinion that corporations should not pay taxes.

    1. Taxation is theft, and double taxation is double theft.

      Why should corporations pay any taxes on profits when their owners are already paying taxes on dividends?

      1. Because envy.

    2. Your paid government gig expounding the benefits of slavery will not go over well here.

    3. “I’m curious to find out what corporation paid Christian Britschgi for his opinion that corporations should not pay taxes.”

      I’m curious to find out if you are a sufficiently stupid piece of lefty shit to assume a company pays a tax rather than its customers.
      How stupid are you?

  8. The latest in a long line of moronic Reason interns who secured a full-time gig.

  9. Well, yeah. I mean, you gotta open up the opportunities for all of those people to make their filthy government subsidy lucre on solar/wind farms.

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