The UL interview: Jesse Kanson-Benanav

Cambridge does not seem like one of the places where the ideas of the Yes In My BackYard movement were likely to take root, but with rents soaring and a greater understanding of the importance of transit, cycling and walking as alternatives to driving, people are becoming more receptive to them. In Cambridge, they’re lead by Jesse Kanson-Benanav, founder of A Better Cambridge.


Kanson-Benanav recently attended the first YIMBY conference, YIMBY 2016, in Boulder.

“It was awesome to be meeting folks from around the country,” he said. “[There was] palpabale excitement to be part of a fledgling movement.”

He said that one of the big takeaways from the conference was the importance of messaging. He said there was a tendancy to get caught up in data, but it can be distracting from the message they’re trying to convey. Kanson-Benanav added that he wants to incorporate A Better Cambridge as a non-profit so that they’ll be able to raise money and get political. In the past A Better Cambridge has sent questionaires to people running for City Council.

“I don’t know what role we’ll play,” he said.

Kanson-Benanav did say that the YIMBY movement needs to be more representative. He said most conference participants were mostly white and male and so the next conference needs to work on being more inclusive.

“One of the things that’s clear is that we need to make a compelling case [for housing] to lower income people and people of color,” he said.

He also wants to grow the YIMBY Movement in Boston. He said the conference was dominated by groups from the West Coast. He said that apart from A Better Cambridge, the Boston area only has WalkUp Rozzie in Roslindale and Newton Villages in Newton.


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