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Calling for Feedback, and Discussing “Light Touch” YIMBY – PolicySphere Morning Briefing – April 9, 2024

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A Short Housekeeping Note – First, thank you for subscribing to PolicySphere’s Morning Briefing newsletter! We work for you. Second: we are calling for your feedback! We keep experimenting with formats with this newsletter: longer or shorter; more focused on aggregating links or adding words of analysis; focused more purely on policy or also on process. Our mission is to help public policy professionals do their job better. So we need you to tell us what you find helpful and what you don’t. Feel free to reach out to us directly via email or on X dot com. Thank you for your support.

Now for your regularly scheduled programming…

#Housing #YIMBY – As we previously noted, housing, and especially housing affordability, has, fortuitously, become a recurring theme on this letter. This is because housing is becoming ever more unaffordable, especially for the younger generation–and this is a recipe for far-left political radicalization of an entire generation.

An intellectually-easy option is favored by the YIMBY movement. Just open up construction to the free market, and supply will meet demand and lower prices. This is intuitively correct. However, there are reasons to doubt that YIMBYism is appropriate, or viable. One is that many people who have purchased homes paying a premium did so in significant part because they believed, reasonably, that they were buying into a specific neighborhood with a specific character, aesthetics, and tone. YIMBYs love to portray NIMBYs as motivated simply by raw greed; certainly it plays a role, but it is naïve to believe it is the whole thing. A lot of people have put virtually their all life savings and gone massively into debt and paid a market premium with the specific intent of growing old and raising children into a specific environment with a specific character. This is not an illegitimate concern. And even if you think it is illegitimate, the people involved, who are tremendously influential as a group, do believe, very strongly, that it is, and that is a fact that must be worked around in some way in a republican form of government.

Furthermore, to be honest, a lot of NIMBYs seem to be people with a very different view from most people of what constitutes the good life: while most people regard a detached house with a garden and one or two cars as “the dream”, these people seem to regard “the dream” as packing as many people as possible into the smallest amount of space, even if it looks like a beehive. For as long as the car has been a mass-manufactured product, at least, the vast majority of people have seen the “suburban lifestyle” as the most pleasant and the most hospitable to raising a family. If “YIMBY” means turning everywhere into Manhattan or Tokyo, the texture of American life would be radically changed.

All that being said, there remains something profoundly offensive about the current situation: younger generations priced out of the housing market through no fault of their own, and not through the neutral operation of supply and demand, but through a situation engineered by laws and regulations.

Is there a third way? This question should seriously concern us.

One possibility highlighted by AEI’s Tobias Peter, based on their Housing Center’s research: a “light touch” approach to YIMBY, as John Hood, a board member of the John Locke Foundation, put it in an article. AEI’s Housing Center has a fascinating repertoire of case studies on how to expand housing supply. In one neighborhood, “after 10 years of light-touch density, it doesn’t look too different, but has 20% more units.”

See the illustration below:

#Housing #Immigration – Another way to reduce the cost of housing: reduce immigration, as New Zealand is doing, according to a Breitbart report.

#Housing #Antitrust – Might another answer be taking on the Realtor cartel? From the WSJ: “Ask a Democrat to name the most powerful business lobby in Washington, and he might say the pharmaceutical or fossil fuel industry. A Republican might respond the climate lobby.” But the real answer might be different: “‘People in Congress are terrified of the Realtors, because they probably have 10,000 in their district, and a lot of them make a lot of money,’ says [Jack] Ryan, 64, who is a real-estate entrepreneur but not a Realtor. The latter term is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors; nonmembers who use it risk an infringement suit.”

#HigherEdMore on the FAFSA debacle: the Department of Education flip-flops on its previous announcement, and says it will now reprocess all FAFSA applications–even encouraging applicants to enter incorrect information, just so it can process things more quickly. State capacity matters!

#Education #MilitaryReadiness – Did you know April is the “Month of the Military Child”? Heritage’s Crystal Kate notes that “one third of active-duty personnel cite dissatisfaction with their kid’s education as ‘a significant factor’ in their decision to stay in or leave,” so that poorly-educated military children are not just a tragedy in itself but a problem for military readiness. One possible fix: giving military families access to ESAs.

#Immigration Revealing scoop from Heritage’s Daily Signal: in Washington, DC, an increasing number of people are now driving around on motorbikes without license plates–maybe you have seen them. It turns out many of them are illegal immigrants working for food delivery services. Some will see it as a symbol of America’s third world future.

#AI #Chyna – RAND researcher Edward Geist has an interesting article on how the US should approach possible negotiations with China on AI regulation.

#SocialMedia #BigTech – AEI’s Clay Calvert: “Addictive Design: The Legislative and Litigation Synergy Driving Florida’s Social Media Crackdown

#K-12 #PublicOpinionNew PEW survey on Americans’ views on public education: about half of Americans say public K-12 education is going in the wrong direction; out of these, 69% blame schools not spending enough time on core academic subjects, like reading, math, science and social studies; 54% blame teachers bringing their personal political and social views into the classroom, and 52% blame schools not having the funding and resources they need.

#SmallBusiness #TheEconomy – NFIB’s March Small Business Economic Trends survey is out. Main finding: Small Business Optimism dropped to 88.5 points, the lowest level since 2012.

#Essays – Katy Faust at Public Discourse: “Artificial Wombs Will Compound the Harm Reproductive Tech Inflicts on Children

Photo of the Day

Unusually, we’re doing a “photo of the day” instead of a chart of the day because this one struck us. Via French space entrepreneur Nicolas Gaume, a photo of the eclipse seen from space.

Meme of the Day

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