YIMBYs are useful idiots of the development lobby


Last month, Katie Roberts-Hull from YIMBY Melbourne posted an article in The Guardian complaining that heritage laws are thwarting housing supply.

“Our fondness for nostalgic aesthetics and preserving character should not overshadow the need for more housing”, Roberts-Hull wrote.

“Often, the loudest voices against new development come from a privileged few who already own property in these neighbourhoods”.

“Any policy that limits development in established suburbs promotes unsustainable outward sprawl”.


“Unfortunately, our heritage policies aim to keep many parts of our city trapped in a moment in time, no matter the cost of doing so”, Roberts-Hull said.

On Tuesday, Guy Rundle penned an article in Crikey lambasting YIMBYs for being both unrealistic and unreasonable.

“The YIMBY movement is raucous, energetic, and bold — and also utterly misdirected in its critique, poor in its analysis, serves its ostensible cause badly, but possibly serves some shadowy masters well”, Rundle writes.


“Every target the YIMBYs has is wrong”, Rundle argues. “Their movement seems to be as much a political-cultural one, with a bit of intergenerational warfare going on”.

“It is utterly indifferent to the actual process of how things get built and the fact that property-as-asset and speculation will always divert production from real need”.

“Some of them are apolitical knowledge class elites who identify with capitalism in its current form, want to be part of it, and blame the state for the market’s failures”.

“Others from the Labor side appear to have adopted the Labor nihilism, a renunciation of actually shaping how we live in favour of being nothing other than a servant of capital”.

“One wonders if some YIMBY activity is a “softening up” tactic for what Victorian Labor is about to do — remove planning powers from local councils altogether”.

“Orienting your politics to simply facilitating capital is the “trickle-down” theory from the left — the desperate idea that if you let them have open slather, accidentally some small proportion of what they build might make it to market”, Rundle claims.

Well said Guy Rundle.


My main complaint against the YIMBY movement is that they only look at the supply-side of the equation, and only superficially.

Australia has one of the highest rates of home construction in the developed world:

Housing construction rates

Source: OECD Affordable Housing Database

Australia also ramped-up housing construction to record levels last decade.


However, this surge in construction was swamped by the unprecedented surge in net overseas migration from 2005, which is projected to run even higher over the next five years:

Dwelling completions versus population growth

Accordingly, Australia’s population is officially projected to grow by a record 2.18 million people over the five years to 2026-27 – equivalent to five Canberra’s or one Perth’s worth of people.


Obviously, this volume of population increase – most of whom will land in Melbourne and Sydney – will make Australia’s housing shortage much worse.

Why won’t YIMBY crusaders like Katie Roberts-Hull admit that Australia’s housing crisis is really an extreme immigration problem?

Outfits like YIMBY Melbourne appear to be an astroturfing operation by property developers seeking open slather development across the city in order to profit from the immigrant ponzi scheme.


If there is a housing crisis, why is the government caving to corporations in order to impose record levels of immigration on us indefinitely?

And why do outfits like YIMBY Melbourne support this strategy rather than protest against it?

Besides, simply demolishing our major cities into high rise apartments won’t solve the housing problem.


It certainly hasn’t worked for Vancouver – one of the world’s most expensive housing markets.

As Patrick Condon (James Taylor chair in Landscape and Livable Environments at the University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the founding chair of the UBC Urban Design program) points out, Vancouver completely transformed by tripling its housing via high density infill, yet housing affordability got worse:


“This was an unreservedly good thing – in all but one respect. This giant surge of new housing supply did not lead to more affordable housing as we all hoped. Somehow, confoundingly, the reverse happened.”

“During this period, Vancouver housing prices quadrupled, rising faster and further than in any other North American centre city”.

“Currently, Vancouver home prices are North America’s highest and the third-most expensive globally (behind only Hong Kong and Sydney)”.

“Vancouver-area wages have stayed stubbornly flat (inflation-adjusted) while housing prices (also inflation-adjusted) have climbed by 400%”. 

Vancouver became North America’s least affordable housing market in terms of price, and became one of the least affordable housing markets in the world.

Vancouver’s rents are also the highest in Canada by a significant margin:

Canadian rents

That’s not a great outcome if affordability is your objective.

It is also no coincidence that Vancouver, like Sydney and Melbourne, has also been flooded with overseas migrants.

Don’t be like Vancouver. NIMBYs take note.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.