Poor People’s NIMBYism: How Community and Organizations Shape Tenants’ Insecurity in the United States

Andrew Messamore, Sociology, University of Texas at Austin
Community Research, Government/Political systems, Housing and Built Environment, Mathematical and Quantitative Methods, Organization, Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management, Political Sociology, Sociology, Urban Economics
Keywords - cities/housing, computational social science, community and participation, organizations

“Not-in-My-Backyard” (NIMBY) movements to stop housing development are a frequently cited justification for ending community control of housing in the United States. Unfortunately, focus on NIMBYs has led to the comparative neglect of “Poor People’s NIMBYism”—movements of tenants in minoritized and renter communities to slow development to protect affordable housing. My dissertation centers the standpoint of “Poor NIMBYs,” evaluating their major claims and the role they play in shaping housing insecurity. I will undertake three independent quantitative studies analyzing large city, state, and federal administrative databases to investigate: (1) if community cohesion protected renters during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) whether community activism influences landlords’ use of property; and (3) if tenant organizations shape affordable housing policy. This study will challenge research that equates all forms of community organizing to NIMBYism, considering how coalitions of tenants’ organizations can create policy that benefits affordable housing. The research will create new methodologies and contribute to literature on housing insecurity, eviction, and urban governance in cities. The project will also examine how municipalities can cooperate with local organizations to protect tenants and empower activist voices in housing, such as BASTA-Austin, a tenants’ organization and collaborator who will benefit from the tools developed in this project.