The pro-housing movement (more colloquially known as “YIMBYs” as an acronym for “Yes In My Back Yard” can’t catch a break from either the Left or the Right. On the Left, pundits like to “expose” them as supporters of big business. But conservatives don’t always embrace YIMBYs either; both on this page and on Planetizen I have discussed conservatives who are lukewarm about zoning reform. So are YIMBYs liberals or libertarians?
I have been at least somewhat active in New York’s YIMBY group, Open New York, for the past few years. There are some center-right people in the group, but my sense is that the membership tends to be more liberal than not, and that many members are more likely than I am to support regulations designed to protect tenants from landlords.
Why might this be? First, New York City is to the left of the nation, and the most expensive and highly educated parts of the city (i.e. Manhattan and Brownstone Brooklyn) are especially liberal. So naturally, any organization (other than one focused on conservative policies) is going to have more liberals than conservatives. If there were YIMBY groups in more conservative places, they would probably be less liberal-dominated.
Second, Open New York tends to be dominated by people under 50; older people are more likely to have purchased houses or condos, and thus aren’t really that interested in lower rents. In recent decades, younger voters have been well to the Left of older voters. So naturally, our group leans a bit left.
Third, New York is dominated by the Democratic Party, and our city’s Democrats have arguably swung to the left over the past decade or so; a group that takes conservative positions is not going to find it easy to build coalitions or to get the attention of city councilpeople. (Admittedly, New York now has several Republican councilpeople; however, they come from suburb-ish districts with lots of older homeowners, and so I’m not sure they are likely to be pro-YIMBY). So even if Open New York was evenly divided between liberals and conservatives, we would have a strong incentive to avoid confrontations with liberals over issues such as rent control.