“The high cost of housing is an important factor in trapping millions of Americans in poverty,” Michael Tanner writes in National Review. “On average, Americans in the lowest third of incomes spend more than 40 percent of their income on housing, a number that rises to more than 50 percent for renters.”
Tanner does not simply condemn the high cost of housing, nor is he content to trace the high cost to local zoning and land-use regulations, though he succinctly captures the deep rot of zoning: “Born largely out of racism (Baltimore’s zoning laws, for instance, explicitly prohibited anyone from buying a house or renting on a block where more than half the residents were of a different race), zoning has evolved into a tool for wealthy property owners to protect their property values at the expense of the poor and minorities….Studies show that such regulations add as much as 20 percent to the cost of a home in Baltimore, Boston, and Washington, 30 percent in Los Angeles and Oakland, and an astounding 50 percent or more in cities such as San Francisco, New York, and San Jose.”
Instead, Tanner’s goal is to encourage Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s attempt to remove restrictive zoning and land-use regulations so people can build more affordable housing for their neighbors. There’s even a surprising grassroots “Yes, In My Backyard” (YIMBY) movement that supports more development in a number of cities. This might be the time for a significant shift in housing policy.