Sunday, August 12, 2018

For affordable housing, move away from the coasts

This map plots the ratio of an average house to average income:

And as the Brooking article notes, and as I've noted, the lack of affordability in places like California can often be blamed on state and local government measures designed to limit the construction and diversification of housing. Zoning laws and other regulatory barriers to new housing production have decimated housing affordability of housing in many coastal cities.

Cities like San Francisco and Seattle have essentially become playgrounds for the wealthy in which existing homeowners fight tooth and nail any attempt to allow sizable amounts of new housing construction. They do this, they tell us, to preserve "the character of the neighborhood." But what they're really doing is using government regulations to drive up the prices on their own real estate, while driving lower-income people further and further out into the periphery. Oh sure, these Progressive guardians of the local "quality of life" might allow a handful of subsidized housing units to be built. After all, somebody has to make your cappuccino or do your dry cleaning. But the overall effect is to ensure few people can afford to move in.


  1. An interesting read - with two employed college graduates now in the market as first-time buyers - finding housing in Nashville that they can afford is difficult at best, so we see this playing out in our own backyard. Knowing a couple of builders out here in Fairview - there are many regulations that they face when trying to build in terms of compression of neighborhoods, etc. Sometimes holding up construction for years on a single neighborhood.

  2. Having moved to Nashville 24 years ago, I have seen this scenario play out over the course of this time. I saw the first downtime area public housing being demolished around ten years ago, and replaced by other public housing that visually fit into the long term vision for Nashville that we see now. It is interesting to see this continued evolution of Nashville and the affordability of living in the vicinity, whether it is public or private housing.

  3. Just to comment on Nashville. Where in Nashville are people being stopped from building affordable housing by regulation? The market dictates that builders build luxury apartments and expensive row homes. Should they not do that when the demand is there? Nashville is not a comp to what is happening on the coasts. You can get a one-bedroom for $1,600! People would kill for that in New York or San Fran. Nashville isn't some sleepy Southern town anymore.

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