The Surprising Left-Right Alliance That Wants More Apartments in Suburbs

For years, the Yimbytown conference was an ideologically safe space where liberal young professionals could talk to other liberal young professionals about the particular problems of cities with a lot of liberal young professionals: not enough bike lanes and transit, too many restrictive zoning laws.

The event began in 2016 in Boulder, Colo., and has ever since revolved around a coalition of left and center Democrats who want to make America’s neighborhoods less exclusive and its housing more dense. (YIMBY, a pro-housing movement that is increasingly an identity, stands for “Yes in my backyard.”)

But the vibes and crowd were surprisingly different at this year’s meeting, which was held at the University of Texas at Austin in February. In addition to vegan lunches and name tags with preferred pronouns, the conference included — even celebrated — a group that had until recently been unwelcome: red-state Republicans.

The first day featured a speech on changing zoning laws by Greg Gianforte, the Republican governor of Montana, who last year signed a housing package that YIMBYs now refer to as “the Montana Miracle.”

Day 2 kicked off with a panel on solutions to Texas’s rising housing costs. One of the speakers was a Republican legislator in Texas who, in addition to being an advocate for loosening land-use regulations, has pushed for a near-total ban on abortions.

Anyone who missed these discussions might have instead gone to the panel on bipartisanship where Republican housing reformers from Arizona and Montana talked with a Democratic state senator from Vermont. Or noticed the list of sponsors that, in addition to foundations like Open Philanthropy and Arnold Ventures, included conservative and libertarian organizations like the Mercatus Center, the American Enterprise Institute and the Pacific Legal Foundation.

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