Future Building Society

Affordable, Attainable Housing is the Solution for Almost Everything

Liked The housing theory of everything – Works in Progress by Sam Bowman & John Myers & Ben Southwood (Works in Progress)

Western housing shortages do not just prevent many from ever affording their own home. They also drive inequality, climate change, low productivity growth, obesity, and even falling fertility rates.

Density! Density! Density!

The total cost of this regulation-induced sprawl in the United States may be enormous. According to one study, if just three cities – New York City, San Jose and San Francisco – loosened their rules against building denser housing to the national average level of restrictiveness, millions would move to jobs that made the best use of their skills and total US GDP would be 8.9% higher. This would translate into average American wages being $8,775 higher per year.

I am curious though how adoption of remote work could change these patterns.

I still think plenty of people will want to live in cities and surrounding areas — there are interesting things to do, friends and family are close, and there are goods and services we’re used to that simply aren’t available in rural areas. Also, like here in the Seattle area, it’s a beautiful place to live with lots of nature nearby. I don’t care how cheap housing is in Kansas, I’m never moving away from a place with mountains.

I suspect a lot of the wrong housing stock is also available. People my age may be less interested in the work of a traditional house (it’s a lot more than I expected!) and prefer the amenities of walkable areas. Lots of monstrous houses are being built in my city because rich people want massive houses apparently (I can’t fathom what they do with all the space). I would prefer a smaller house than I have, better designed, but that’s not what’s going in.

I think I’d like to live close to or in our little city’s downtown, but I can’t afford it. Selling my house wouldn’t cover the cost of a house in a closer neighborhood, maybe a crappy condo.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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