Corporate YIMBYs have repeatedly tried to frame themselves as housing justice activists, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, a new book titled Selling Off California: The Untold Story reveals that Corporate YIMBYs have deep ties to Big Real Estate and Big Tech, pushing forward their pro-gentrification, trickle-down housing agendas at the expense of working-class communities, especially those of color. Let’s run through the key findings of the book.
Written by Patrick Range McDonald, Housing Is A Human Right’s award-winning advocacy journalist, Selling Off California first reveals that California YIMBY was founded by tech executives to counter a worsening public backlash for Big Tech’s major role in fueling gentrification and the housing affordability crisis in the Bay Area.
“Faced with increasing ill will and bad public relations,” McDonald writes, “Big Tech understood it needed to act. In a candid 2017 article by The Information, titled ‘Tech Leaders Seeks Bigger Political Role With Housing Push,’ Pantheon CEO Zack Rosen explained that a ‘combination of over-regulation by the state and the tech industry’s success has created the [housing] problem. I feel there’s a real onus on us to lead.’ But with millions of middle- and working-class Californians struggling to pay exorbitant rents, Big Tech’s need to lead was hardly altruistic.”
McDonald continues, “What pushed tech executives into action, Rosen told The Information, was that the housing affordability crisis had become an ‘existential threat’ to the growth of the tech industry. In other words, Big Tech wanted to protect, and expand, its gigantic profits.”
Rosen founded California YIMBY with Microsoft executive Nat Friedman, and brought in YIMBY ringleader Brian Hanlon to run it and organize YIMBY groups up and down California. Selling Off California reports that Rosen and Friedman wanted “California YIMBY to lobby state legislators and draft Big Tech-backed housing and land-use bills. The tech industry also needed ground troops to counter the inevitable ire of housing justice and social justice activists.”
Big Tech executives then shelled out millions to both California YIMBY and its political action committee, California YIMBY Victory Fund, which handed out campaign contributions to state politicians.