My take: Housing isn’t just a California problem anymore

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Photo by Marcus Lenk on Unsplash

By David M. Greenwald
Chief Editor

Anti-housing advocates can breathe a sigh of relief, it turns out that not only is housing not just a Davis problem — it’s not just a California problem. Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t mean we have nothing to do locally – it just means we can no longer rely on the rest of the country to pick up our slack.

Davis voters who were polled singled out the lack of affordable housing as by far the most important issue facing the city of Davis.

This week, the NY Times reported, “San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Washington have long failed to build enough housing to keep pace with everyone trying to live there. And for almost as long, other parts of the country have mostly been able to ignore the housing shortage as a condition peculiar to major coastal cities.

Instead, they found it to be an “increasingly national problem” that “has consequences for the quality of American family life, the economy, and the future of US politics.” lodging”.

In 2012, much of populated California had excess housing – now only extremely rural and remote counties have it and much of the coast and southern part of the Central Valley from Sutter County to Kern, have housing shortages – some of them severe.

But it’s not just California.

The Times reports, “What once seemed like a blue state coastal problem has increasingly become a national problem, with consequences for the quality of life of American families, the health of the national economy and politics. of housing construction.

They add, “Today, more families in America’s Midtown who could once count on becoming homeowners can no longer be so confident. And communities that have long relied on their relatively affordable housing to attract new residents can no longer be so sure of that advantage.

Freddie Mac now estimates the nation has a deficit of about 3.8 million housing units.

Up For Growth, a Washington-based policy and research group focused on the housing shortage, says the deficit doubled from 2012 to 2019.

Their just-released report found that 47 states and the District of Columbia had deteriorating supply. Of the country’s 310 metropolitan areas, “supply was shrinking or shortages were worsening in three-quarters of them as the pandemic approached.”

“Our nation faces a serious housing affordability crisis that urgently requires investments in housing supply to remove long-standing barriers to housing opportunity for underserved communities,” he said. said Julian Castro, former HUD secretary from 2014 to 2017.

The report found that even in Texas, the deficit nearly tripled between 2012 and 2019, to 322,000 households.

In places like Arizona and George where there was almost no housing shortage in 2012, the shortage increased 14 and 27 times respectively.

“If we don’t address this deficit, especially now with other headwinds, the housing underproduction in the United States is likely to get worse,” said Mike Kingsella, chief executive of Up for Growth. “More and more people will have to drive further and further to find affordable housing.”

The reasons for this problem vary.

For example, as we know, places like Sacramento, the problem is underconstruction – as it is in much of California.

“In Los Angeles, for example, which is the most under-produced metro in the country, it’s missing 8.4% — nearly 400,000 homes missing in the area,” Kingsella told NPR this week. “It doesn’t have to be that way, that’s a key message that emerges from this report.”

But in St. Louis, restrictive zoning has prohibited the construction of more homes. Kingsella said many cities need to change their zoning laws.

In Detroit, the problem is that a huge stock of housing is uninhabitable.

NPR interviewed Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He estimated the shortfall would be closer to 1.6 million households.

“It’s very difficult to know exactly what the shortage is,” says Zandi. “But at the end of the day, whatever the estimate, there are a lot of homes that are undersupplied.”

He further added: “There is no doubt that many more houses need to be built to ensure that housing becomes more affordable, whether it is rental housing or home ownership”.

One of the interesting and sometimes frustrating discussions is what it means to have a housing shortage.

The Times points out: “There are not, for example, 400,000 homeless homes on the streets of metro Los Angeles.

Instead, “many people who need housing are grouped there with families or live in makeshift garages. A healthier housing market looks like a place where these people could find and afford their own home.

“It feels like being able to live where you want to work,” said Mike Kingsella, managing director of Up For Growth. “It seems we don’t have to worry about housing instability. It sounds like a reasonable chance of eventually buying your own home.

But these estimates are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

For example, “The cost of housing in the best-paying and most productive parts of the country deters people from moving there (or forces existing residents to move).” Thus, “If Los Angeles had built 400,000 more homes in the past decade, it would be more affordable today. And that could attract more people there, which will stimulate demand for even more housing. »

As we know, this encourages anti-housing proponents to discourage housing, as it may encourage more housing.

On the other hand, it is not just the supply that is the problem.

The Times noted, “Other forces such as worsening income inequality are also worsening housing affordability,” said Chris Herbert, chief executive of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. This is because more high-income households are competing for limited housing (prompting builders to build high-end homes).

“That’s not to say the sourcing story isn’t important,” Mr. Herbert said. “But that intersects with other factors that drive up house prices.”

Ultimately, we need more housing – but housing is both a cause and a symptom of bigger problems.

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