A few items on affordability and development:
Short term vs. long term: Matt Yglesias asks why we’re not building more multi-unit buildings in the face of tremendous demand, and the answer is (broadly speaking) financing:
Karl Smith, citing me, blames anti-density land use rules. Naturally I would like everyone to buy my book and it would certainly be convenient if my pet long-term issue were also the solution to our short-term problems. But I’m actually not sure it’s true. My reason for doubting it is that the construction undershooting doesn’t seem notably concentrated in the supply-constrained markets. What’s more, every time I speak to people who are involved in the development game, they assure me that the short-term constraint on big developments is financing. People have more or less shovel-ready infill projects and they need a loan. Some evidence for this is provided by the fact that there’ve been a curious volume of large 100% equity projects undertaken recently. What people say is that there’s too much liquidity risk to go into big things.
Financing is indeed a critical element. Many of those shovel-ready projects are good ones, but the bar is much higher now than it was. This represents a short-term constraint. Another factor is the considerable lag time involved in putting together complex development projects. That said, this doesn’t mean the long-term regulatory constraints aren’t a factor – particularly procedural ones.
The DCFPI report makes mention of the fact that housing in Washington is constrained by our height limits. It doesn’t take that logic one step further to point out that there are lots of areas where D.C. limits its own capacity to build through low-density zoning.
It’s true, affordable housing people were the driving force behind inclusionary zoning, and smart growth advocates are getting to agitate more forcefully for the city to require developers who want public land to incorporate affordable housing into their proposals. But many developers avoid the public land process altogether, preferring not to deal with all the delays and frustrations. And affordable housing shouldn’t be all about setting prices artificially low—it’s also about letting builders build the amount of housing this city needs.
One option would be to look at the missing middle of density. Regardless, the overall supply needs to expand in the face of DC’s growing population and intense demand.
Demand and that other thing I can’t remember: Chuch Thies doesn’t seem to think there’s actually a housing price problem in DC:
The District of Columbia, for example, is a desirable place to live. Unlike in many parts of the country, there are job opportunities in our region. Many of the positions pay a good wage. A robust job market attracts new residents. In turn, the demand for housing increases. Prices go up.
Perhaps a little too simple. Simple economics would also allow for an increase in supply in the face of such demand.
But taxpayers should not be asked to spend a dime on affordable housing for young, single residents without children. There are plenty of market rate solutions to their housing concerns. They come in the form of suburbs, group homes, roommates and sacrifices.
Or, you know, we could build more housing.
Affordable for whom? RU Seriousing Me is making more maps – this one focusing on affordability, noting that affordability is relative to one’s income:
I’ll echo Lydia DePillis‘ call to affordable housing advocates to pay attention to the effect that excessive land use regulations have on housing costs. Relaxing building height restrictions and eliminating barriers to the construction of housing is a good way to make housing more affordable across the board, even though chances are, the free market will never produce housing in DC that its many impoverished residents can afford, which is why DCFPI’s recommendations to increase subsidies for low-income housing production and homeownership are also valid.
Squeezing out the entry-level middle: The Post gets in on the action, too:
Many of the outer suburbs still have plenty of houses in the lower price ranges. But less-expensive homes are very hard to find closer to central D.C.: 68 percent of homes offered for less than $350,000 are located in the outer suburbs beyond Montgomery County, Arlington and Alexandria. In the District, Redfin counts only 862 listings for less than $350,000.
Don’t forget bad regulations that drive up costs: Such as those that demand the provision of parking on-site, like this development in Brooklyn. The cost aspect is bad enough, but the impact on urban design is truly awful.