The Case for Density
Every quarter, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development's (HUD's) Office of Policy Development & Research publishes a periodical called Evidence Matters. This spring's edition, called "Regulatory Barriers and Affordable Housing," is particularly enlightening, and I'm including a link to it here. I have abstracted some of the key points below.
The thesis of the article is that "zoning and land use regulations increase housing prices" (p. 4) and that there is "a strong correlation between the severity of a city's barriers to apartment construction and the percentage of households spending at least 35 percent of their income on rent." (p. 5). The article also ties strong NIMBY-ism (a "not in my back yard" perspective) to higher housing costs, stating that "Strong NIMBY opposition in places of opportunity may have the overall effect of reducing the amount of newly constructed affordable housing built in these areas." (p. 6)
While the reasons behind many types of zoning are good and necessary and benefit the community at large, zoning is also affected by subjective citizen opinions and preferences. The article points out that "Residents of growing suburban communities are demonstrating strong demand for low-density housing." (p. 12) Because of this, "…in modest and high-cost housing markets, local governments use their zoning powers to price out low-income families, bowing to pressure from upper-middle-income households to preserve or increase their home values." (p. 14)
The regulatory barriers to residential development that increase housing prices include the following:
In addition, NIMBY opposition, while not a product of regulation, can be exacerbated when zoning and processes are not constructed to ease the development of multi-family buildings.
The article makes a variety of recommendations:
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