Sep 13, 2022 - Politics

Youngkin ramps up anti-NIMBY rhetoric

Photo illustration of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin with lines radiating from him.
Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Glenn Youngkin says he wants to make it harder for local governments to block dense new development as his administration looks for ways to bring down sky-high housing costs.

What's happening: Youngkin recently began slipping pro-density, anti-NIMBY talking points into speeches and interviews.

  • "You know, folks fight tooth and nail to stop almost any development, and we've just got to recognize that you can't complain on one side about not having enough supply and then go lay in the road in order to stop all development," Youngkin told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last month.

The big picture: Politicians talk a lot about housing costs, but outside of California, it's rare for them to zero in on zoning reform.

  • The issue can either come across as extremely boring or, for some homeowners invested in the status quo, an enraging threat.

Flashback: A Youngkin-allied PAC attacked Terry McAuliffe last year by highlighting a section of his website voicing support for modest reforms Youngkin now says he backs.

  • The ad warned McAuliffe would "destroy suburban neighborhoods and … the American dream of a single-family home."

Details: Youngkin's administration has so far not detailed any specific policy proposals, but in a speech to General Assembly lawmakers last month, he blamed "over-burdensome and inefficient local governments" for rising housing costs.

  • He contrasted his support for loosening zoning laws to the previous administration's focus on increasing government housing subsidies, which Youngkin says he opposes.

What's next: Youngkin's press secretary, Macaulay Porter, tells Axios that the administration is still weighing its options.

What they're saying: In the development community, there's no shortage of ideas for new policies.

  • The state could set deadlines for local governments to approve development plans and building permits — two areas where delays can drive up costs, Andrew Clark, a lobbyist for the Homebuilders Association of Virginia, tells Axios.
  • Clark also suggested the state could pass a law preventing suburban localities from mandating large minimum lot sizes for new developments, a policy he says also drives up costs.

Reality check: Any of those changes would have to make it through the General Assembly, and local governments are sure to oppose any encroachment on their authority.

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