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News + PoliticsHousingThe big Yimby money behind housing deregulation bills

The big Yimby money behind housing deregulation bills

Cal Yimby spent more than $500,000 pushing for laws that would promote market-rate development with no real affordability guarantees.


SB 9, a bill that would further deregulate housing in the state – with no requirements or provisions for any affordable units – passed out of the state Senate today with overwhelming support.

I’m not surprised. The real-estate industry, which supports the measure, is a powerful force in Sacramento, second only (maybe) to the telecom industry.

Lots of Yimby money lobbying for state Sen. Scott Wiener’s housing bill.

But what’s remarkable about this bill, and a companion measure, SB 10, by Sen. Scott Wiener, is the amount of money that Yimby California spent on lobbying for the measures.

According to calobbysearch.org, a wonderful website that links lobbyist data to individual bills, California Yimby spent more than half a million dollars lobbying legislators for SB 9, SB 10, and some other housing bills.

Yes: $546,000 in lobbying payments to allow more market-rate housing, which doesn’t solve the housing crisis and often leads to displacement of existing vulnerable communities.

Even by Sacramento standards, that’s a lot of cash.

Much of the money went to two firms, Lighthouse Public Affairs and the Dewey Square Group. Both have well-established operations in the state Capitol.

Cal Yimby is a nonprofit organization in the state, chartered under Internal Revenue Code Section 501 c 4. That means it is free to spend money on advocacy (but contributions aren’t tax deductible).

The latest public IRS filings – for the fiscal year ending in 2019 – show total revenue of $6.3 million. That’s almost double what the group brought in in 2018.

We don’t know exactly who is funding Cal Yimby today – the law requires nonprofits to tell the IRS about any donors of more than $5,000, but that part of the tax return in not public.

But we know this:

Since its founding in summer 2017, California Yimby has received $500,000 raised by Nat Friedman and Zack Rosen (Pantheon); $500,000 from the Open Philanthropy Project, mainly funded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna; and a million dollars from the online payment company Stripe.

So the tech industry – which helped create the housing crisis — is now helping pay for a move to let the private market play a bigger role in housing in California. At the expense of people who the industry helped drive out of their communities.

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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