GMcGowan

EtG @ Google

Currently funding YIMBY policy work in the UK

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Cause Area: UK Housing Policy

Thanks for this comment! Hard for me to give satisfying answers to everything which is the sign of a particularly good critique IMO. Re: PricedOut I will speak to you privately.

Gove's support for Street Votes seems to have been a passing thing, and the window for action may well have closed.

Unless you have private information then I don't really see how you're inferring this? He publicly supported it around the end of November and has said little since then. My understanding from his public statements are that they are still deciding exactly what to do and how to implement reforms so everything is still to play for.

I agree government instability makes the outlook worse here. What we can infer from the failure of the previous reforms would be a post in itself, but briefly I think they were overambitious, tried to ram through much higher housing targets and took away a bunch of local consent for development. Street Votes does less of this, I see it as a much milder and politically palatable policy. The previous policy immediately got a bunch of opposition in the press and Street Votes has seen very little of that after Gove's support. Of course, it may see more opposition if it were to become official policy!

Which leads us onto...

I think [the culture of homeownership] will push quite strongly in the direction of people not endorsing building, because the market-driven logic of Street Votes pushes against the mythology of homeownership. Anecdotally, I have discussed Street Votes with a pretty substantial number of homeowners in various contexts, and I very rarely have gotten the positive response that advocates imagine.

I basically agree with John's comment on this. I would add that streets can also make themselves look nicer by adopting a particular design code for the street, which could lead to some support independent of financial benefits. Most streets won't do this, but enough might to make it worth it. Or not! But I think the proportion of streets which vote for development is a grey area about which we can reasonably disagree.

from a political perspective, it seems hard to see how any reform passes in the short run without at least some work in more rural areas

Yeah, I don't have a good answer to this. I would say again that I think these reforms are pretty politically palatable and don't force as much development onto rural areas as the previous plans.

I second MaxGhenis' hope that someone might write up a rigourous and comprehensive EA analysis of housing policy interventions

I third this hope! For me, the economic benefits loom largest and are easiest to quantify but certainly there would be many other benefits of improved policy here.

Cause Area: UK Housing Policy

Thanks!

I'd always been a bit interested in the area as a bystander. In the first half of 2021 I realised that a) I had more money to donate over the next few years than I expected and that b) the EA movement had more money than I'd thought. This made me think that I should try to find something a bit unexplored to do with my donations. I went through the Founders Pledge research reports and this struck me as a good bet, where my donations would fill up a lot of the RFMF.

Cause Area: UK Housing Policy

Great graph. I should probably have included some discussion of this being largely a regional problem.

Yes, to be clear Founders Pledge did tell me that this was probably worse than GD/other things all things considered, so I am going against their recommendation to do this.

Cause Area: UK Housing Policy

I agree that the outside view of changes here looks grim.

I think it isn't exactly neglected when it comes to public attention, but the focus on supply isn't really there and most policies that are proposed are not very good. So IMO there is space for orgs that focus on supply and promote actually good policies.

Cause Area: UK Housing Policy

Indeed, there are potential other positive effects (as with many causes). The biggest one for me would be if this lowers the perceived cost of immigration by reducing competition for relatively fixed housing, and thus enables more immigration. I think that's pretty speculative though, so I didn't include it in the post.

Alas, such an analysis is beyond me!

Donating effectively does not necessarily imply donating tax-deductibly

This made me more likely to give non tax-deductibily, and gives a useful resource to link to for other people

Democratising Risk - or how EA deals with critics

I'm not sure your points about the average global citizen being homophobic, religious, socialist, etc., actually matter that much when it comes to people deciding where they should allocate funding for existential risk

I vaguely remember reading something about religious people worrying less about extinction, but I don't remember whether that was just intuition or an actual study. They may also be predisposed to care less about certain kinds of risk, e.g. not worrying about AI as they perceive it to be impossible.

(these are pretty minor points though)

The Unweaving of a Beautiful Thing

Do you have links to your other writing? Would love to read more of your work.

Where are you donating in 2021, and why?

Two main places this year:

1) My employer gives £8k of matching funds, so I spent that on the GiveWell Maximum Impact Fund. I like this because: a) it gives me something obviously good to recommend to my colleagues to do with their matching. b) I like for some of my donations to go to things which are obviously good. c) I cannot give these funds to non-charities.

2) My other target this year was slightly different. I've been funding work around land use/housing policy reform in the UK. Nearing £30k given here so far. Primarily this is due to the arguments outlined in this excellent Founders Pledge report (this article is also a great summary) - so I won't go over too many of the basic arguments here.

IMO housing policy reform:

  • Would address a huge problem for the UK economy
  • Is currently on the government's agenda in a way that it hasn't been in years
  • Has a proposal with a real chance of success - Street Votes - (FAQ) - endorsed by the housing minister
  • Is underfunded in the UK (in the US Open Phil funds a lot of work)

I've been donating to London YIMBY and PricedOutUK so far. Funds are largely being used to write policy papers, with a bit used for running costs/campaigning as well. Neither of these are charities, but I think that tax-deductibility isn't a must.

I see this cause as an example of "Hits-based" giving. It isn't at all certain that marginal donations will help get the proposed policy implemented, or that the policy will help once implemented. But the gains are such that a hit would be a big deal. I believe that donations here have the potential for large gains for relatively little money, and so probably meet the "x100" bar for donations (and maybe the x1000).

I also see this as a case of being an "angel investor", in that I am supporting very small organisations that may or may not scale up in the future. I'm also developing some connections such that I hopefully can recognise strong opportunities in this area in the future.


I intend to write up my thoughts on this as a cause area as a proper blog post at some point, but feel free to challenge me in the comments 🙂

Edit to add: blog post

The 2021 EA Funds Donor Lottery is now open

Nice, excited to see the $2m block!

If you’re not sure, we suggest that you aim to enter with a 1%-30% chance of winning.

What's the logic here? Expected value is the same in all cases right?

Can you share who the guarantor is this year? 

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