Housing Affordability Hits a Crisis Level

By builderonline – excerpt

The growing lack of affordable housing for America’s middle class could harm the economic health of the country, according to the author of a new report.

America’s Housing Crisis, by the Houston-based Center For Opportunity Urbanism (COU), says that a growing crisis in housing supply is driving middle-class families out of many high-priced areas of the country, notes COU Executive Director Joel Kotkin.

Here, BUILDER talks with Kotkin about the ramifications of the high price of housing and what can be done about it…

Q: Is this housing crisis reflective of the country’s income inequality as a whole?
A: Housing, notes scholars in both Europe and the United States, has become the biggest driver of inequality in recent decades. As housing prices go out of reach, it becomes increasingly difficult for middle and working class families to purchase a home, or even find a place with affordable rents. The result has been to drive many working families into poverty; in California, where high prices are largely the result of regulations, upwards of one in four people lives in poverty, the highest rate in the country…

Q: How should public officials “make it easier for U.S. housing developers to produce more starter and other homes to accommodate the demand,” as you say in the report?
A: Very simply, by reducing greenfield land regulation, so that houses can be built on land that represents a more reasonable share of the land and house price. That share has normally been around 20 percent, but has been driven much higher in recent years in markets with urban containment policy and related restrictive land use policy, such as California, Portland, Seattle, Denver and Washington DC. There is no higher domestic priority than a better standard of living and lower poverty rates. Housing is the largest expenditure item in household budgets. By unnecessarily driving up land prices through unreasonable regulation, public policy wrongly favors planning goals over human and social goals… (more)

This sounds like something we have heard before. Limiting building to PDAs (Priority Development Areas) based on transit oriented development that opposes sprawl is the root cause of the affordability crisis. Now that we know the SFMTA plans to force people out of their cars is a bust, (more families own cars now than before) maybe it is time to re-think the rest of the plan. Especially since our air quality has improved without eliminating the cars. The cars got a lot cleaner and the use of non-fossil fuels for other purposes has escalated. See the graph below that illustrates the point.


According to the Planning Department that tracks such things, the number of families in the Mission with cars increased from 37% to 64%.




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