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It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: We assume families don’t want to live downtown, we therefore don’t design for family, and, sure enough, families don’t come, or they don’t stay.

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How Should The Government Fix Affordable Housing?

Kelly Wong, January 28, 2015


Many American cities are experiencing a shortage of affordable housing. It’s a big problem that needs to be addressed, but there’s little consensus about how to address it. Add to that the NIMBY attitude that many people seem to hold toward affordable housing projects, and we’re looking at a problem that is both complex and politically charged.

Housing costs in San Francisco have skyrocketed in the past few years and it doesn’t look like they’ll stop increasing any time soon. One of the reasons for the price increase is because discretionary permitting prevents the housing supply from increasing rapidly as the population grows. Some such as the blog Market Urbanism believe that reforming regulations so that development is less restricted would go a long way in addressing the issue. On top of that, creating a land tax would encourage denser development, and funding housing vouchers with that tax money would ensure that the amount of funding increases when housing demand goes up and drives up the cost of land.

Los Angeles is suffering from a lack of affordable housing as well, and some feel that the local government should be doing far more to address the issue. Some suggested solutions to LA’s affordable housing issue include overhauling the zoning code so that it’s easier to develop, offering incentives to developers for building affordable housing, and preserving the current stock of affordable housing.

All of these proposed solutions include some form of government intervention. However, we have seen that some government responses, like rent control and subsidized housing, have not exactly solved the affordable housing problem in the past. If that’s the case, how should the government intervene in affordable housing issues? Whichever way we choose to address the problem, it’ll be important to understand the housing market, as well as acknowledge the shortcomings of our previous solutions.


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