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    Key takeaways


    • The Housing Theory of Everything unearths the hidden influence of housing on a multitude of societal challenges. John Myers’ insights underscore the interconnectedness of housing with issues ranging from inequality to opportunity.
    • Central to the theory is the understanding that a scarcity of suitable housing in desirable locations yields far-reaching consequences. The theory’s strength lies in its capacity to stimulate discourse on this critical issue.
    • COVID-19 revealed housing’s deep-rooted inequities and the pivotal role it plays in work dynamics and community cohesion. As urban areas displayed resilience amidst disruptions, the theory’s relevance persisted.


    In an episode of the Poplar Propcast, host Justin Lieberknecht engages in a riveting discussion that unravels a groundbreaking concept – the Housing Theory of Everything. Joining the conversation is John Myers, co-founder of the YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) Alliance and co-author of this transformative theory that has recently garnered attention from prestigious publications.



    The story behind The Housing Theory of Everything


    The episode kicks off with Justin’s article that has resurfaced with renewed relevance. “For over a decade, I’ve delved into this fascination. It became increasingly apparent to me that numerous challenges we grapple with today – spanning from economic stagnation and wage disparities to the housing affordability quagmire and arduous commutes – can all be linked back to a common denominator: the insufficient availability of suitable housing in optimal locations,” John recounted.

    John’s insights, grounded in a meticulous accumulation of evidence, were honed over the years. “Given my involvement in housing-related advocacy, the urgency to articulate these insights into a coherent framework became more pronounced,” he elaborates.

    Collaboration emerges as a driving force behind this revolutionary theory. “When Ben and Sam proposed crafting a substantial piece for their platform, I saw the significance of the opportunity and eagerly embraced the chance to collaborate,” John reminisces.

    The Housing Theory of Everything, while audacious, presents a unifying thread that connects a plethora of societal challenges. It surpasses conventional boundaries, underscoring housing’s profound influence on life’s tapestry, economic dynamics, and ecological equilibrium.


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    What’s The Housing Theory of Everything?


    John discusses the main idea of the article that this theory posits that housing, often overlooked as a root cause, underpins an array of problems, from inequality to opportunity.

    Central to this concept is the assertion that the shortage of suitable housing in desirable locations has far-reaching consequences. “I’m not presuming to tell anyone what they should want or where they should want it,” he said, as he pointed out that the kind of housing people seek is closely aligned with their aspirations for work, family, health, and happiness.

    However, “successful areas like San Diego, San Francisco, and the New York area” exhibit skyrocketing demand due to limited housing development. This exacerbates unaffordability and inequality. Such unaffordability disproportionately affects those with lower incomes, obstructing their access to high-wage cities.

    The consequences ripple further. The decline in mobility—attributed to the unaffordability of housing in potential destination cities—has led to reduced opportunity and increased inequality. Skill-based workers like plumbers, who once thrived on moving to emerging opportunities, are now hesitating due to housing costs.

    John acknowledges that existing communities play a role in this dynamic, complicating the already intricate landscape of housing and opportunity. He talks about the interconnectedness of communities and existing networks and support structures while fostering strong local bonds, which can also hinder relocation. 

    However, John is cautious about maintaining the theory’s scope. He clarifies that while the term “Housing Theory of Everything” may catch attention, it does not propose that housing is the sole root of all problems. Rather, it aims to spotlight the vital role of housing in a myriad of contemporary issues.

    John concurs that the theory’s strength lies in its capacity to stimulate discussion and shed light on a pivotal dimension of societal concerns. As John points out, it’s important to acknowledge the potential pitfalls of such a broad claim, yet the core message—that housing intricately links to numerous significant challenges—remains undeniably accurate.



    The resilience of Housing Theory in the face of COVID-19


    Justin and John delve into the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on the housing landscape, shedding light on the intricate connection between housing, work, and community. John’s groundbreaking article, The Housing Theory of Everything, emerged amid the pandemic, prompting them to explore the pandemic’s imprint on housing dynamics.

    John explains that COVID-19 laid bare the preexisting inequalities tied to housing. Crowded living conditions and the lack of affordable housing amplified virus transmission within certain communities. “COVID exacerbated the impact of existing housing problems.” The pandemic spotlighted the necessity of spacious and affordable living spaces.

    As the world grappled with lockdowns, the work landscape underwent a transformation. The sudden shift to remote work revealed yet another layer of housing challenges. Individuals who needed more space needed help adapting to remote work requirements. John emphasizes that the root cause was a long-standing one: insufficient housing construction. 

    Even though remote work temporarily freed up space in bustling urban centers like Manhattan, it didn’t spell the end of cities. John argues, “We don’t know what the future’s gonna bring. And unless we carry on being as unadaptable as we are unadaptable as we are now, then we are just not gonna be well prepared for the next thing that hits.”

    Despite the disruptions, however, urban areas experienced a resurgence, reflecting people’s persistent desire to be close to their communities, friends, jobs, and amenities. The pandemic underscored the urgency to adapt and innovate in housing and infrastructure development.

    The ongoing dialogue between Justin and John reveals the enduring significance of the Housing Theory of Everything, which remains a guiding framework even in the face of unforeseen global challenges. COVID-19’s impact served as a stark reminder of the critical role housing plays in shaping our lives, underscoring the need for adaptive solutions and a proactive approach to future uncertainties.


    Up next: How short-term rentals contribute to the housing crisis



    Concluding thoughts


    In the tapestry of societal challenges, the thread of housing weaves an intricate pattern that shapes our lives, opportunities, and communities. The Housing Theory of Everything, unveiled through profound insights and collaborative effort, illuminates the pivotal role housing plays in our world.

    It’s not the solitary root but rather a connecting force that binds economic dynamics, mobility, and ecological equilibrium. As we navigate uncertainties like COVID-19, this theory stands strong, reminding us that adaptability and innovation are key to ensuring housing remains a foundation for thriving societies. Let us embrace the urgency to transform housing challenges into opportunities, weaving a brighter future for all.




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