Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘affordable housing’

Housing Is Getting Less Affordable. Governments Are Making It Worse.

Posted by M. C. on October 21, 2022

As The Washington Post reported in 2019, various government regulations and fees, such as “impact fees,” which are the same regardless of the size of the unit, “incentivize developers to build big.” The Post continues, “if zoning allows no more than two units per acre, the incentive will be to build the biggest, most expensive units possible.”

The average square footage in new single-family houses has been declining since 2015. House sizes tend to fall just during recessionary periods. It happened from 2008 to 2009, from 2001 to 2002, and from 1990 to 1991.

But even with strong economic-growth numbers well into 2019, it looks like demand for houses of historically large size may have finally peaked even before the 2020 recession and our current economic malaise.  (Square footage in new multifamily construction has also increased.)

According to Census Bureau data, the average size of new houses in 2021 was 2,480 square feet. That’s down 7 percent from the 2015 peak of 2,687.

[Read More: “Americans Have Much More Living Space than Europeans” by Ryan McMaken]

2015’s average, by the way, was an all-time high and represented decades of near-relentless growth in house sizes in the United States since the Second World War. Indeed, in the 48 years from 1973 to 2015, the average size of new houses increased by 62 percent from 1,660 to 2,687 square feet. At the same time, the quality of housing also increased substantially in everything from insulation, to roofing materials, to windows, and to the size and availability of garages. 


Source: Department of Labor, US Census Bureau, HUD.1

Meanwhile, the size of American households during this period decreased 16 percent from 3.01 to 2.51 people.


Source: US Census Bureau

Yet, even with that 7 percent decline in house size since 2015, the average new home in America as of 2021 was still well over 50 percent larger than they were in the 1960s. Home size isn’t exactly falling off a cliff. US homes, on a square-foot-per-person basis, remain quite large by historical standards. Since 1973, square footage per person in new houses has nearly doubled, rising from 503 square feet per person in 1973 to 988 square feet person in 2021. By this measure, new house size actually increased from 2020 to 2021. 


Source: US Census Bureau

This continued drive upward in new home size can be attributed in part to the persistence of easy money over the past decade. Even as homes continued to stay big—and thus stay comparatively expensive—it was not difficult to find buyers for them. Continually falling mortgage rates to historical lows below even 3 percent in many cases meant buyers could simply borrow more money to buy big houses. 

But we may have finally hit the wall on home size. In recent months we’re finally starting to see evidence of falling home sales and falling home prices. It’s only now, with mortgage rates surging, inflation soaring, and real wages falling—and thus home price affordability falling—that there are now good reasons for builders to think “wow, maybe we need to build some smaller, less costly homes.”  There are many reasons to think that they won’t, and that for-purchase homes will simply become less affordable. But it’s not the fault of the builders.

This wouldn’t be a problem in a mostly-free market in which builders could easily adjust their products to meet the market where it’s at. In a flexible and generally free market, builders would flock to build homes at a price level at which a large segment of the population could afford to buy those houses.  But that’s not the sort of economy we live in. Rather, real estate and housing development are highly regulated industries at both the federal level and at the local level. Thanks to this, it is becoming more and more difficult for builders to build smaller houses at a time when millions of potential first-time home buyers would gladly snatch them up. 

How Government Policy Led to a Codification of Larger, More Expensive Houses

See the rest here

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Erie Times E-Edition Article-Go green on housing with no additional cost

Posted by M. C. on June 4, 2021

“Go green on housing with no additional cost”

The point here is “no additional cost” really means “free government money” pays the tab. This person, vice president of the Environment Program at the JPB Foundation, is delusional.

Free government money comes from 3 places. Taxes (not free to the taxpayer), loans from other countries and entities (the resultant interest is not free) and printing money which generates the hidden tax that is inflation which is now again rearing it’s ugly head (paid for by everyone).

The sad part is the author and most of the unwashed masses may actually believe free government money is really a free lunch.

The real housing crisis is sky high home prices. And that is courtesy of free government money supplied by the Fed.

Go green on housing with no additional cost

Your Turn Dana Bourland | Guest columnist Two of the biggest problems we face today — a shortage of decent, affordable housing and climate change — are connected. Fortunately, the solutions are connected as well. That’s why we must not only ‘build back better’ in the wake of pandemic and recession, but build back greener.

Most housing in the United States is inefficient and expensive to heat and cool. That means high utility bills and higher carbon emissions; residential energy use accounts for a fifth of climate-changing greenhouse gases emitted in the United States.

At the same time, the facilities that produce the power to build and operate our homes — like coal-fired power plants — contribute to a changing climate. Because they are often located in communities of color, these facilities also exacerbate environmental injustice. And producing the petrochemicals used in adhesives, cabinets, carpets, insulation and other building materials not only contributes to climate change, but pollutes the air outside and inside our homes.

The good news is that we can address our housing crisis and our climate crisis with green affordable housing at no additional cost.

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan includes a large allocation for housing — an important first step. And the much-needed recent expansion of the Weatherization Assistance Program will make homes more comfortable and efficient.

But these investments can accomplish so much more, by ‘greening’ the entire building supply chain. That means going beyond energy consumption in our homes to address energy usage and petrochemicals in the manufacturing and transportation of materials.

In other words, how we build is as important as what we build. We can’t make one home green while polluting other communities in the process.

Biden’s ‘American Jobs Plan’ calls for investing $213 billion in the nation’s housing infrastructure. This includes $40 billion to repair public housing, $45 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund, an expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program and more.

The administration can ‘green’ this investment by requiring these programs to use holistic green affordable housing criteria. These should go beyond energy efficiency to include the use of sustainably produced, non-toxic building materials. In this way, the infrastructure bill could stabilize the climate and improve public health while expanding access to affordable housing.

Similarly, the Weatherization Assistance Program could be expanded to include health and safety improvements as well as energy-efficiency upgrades, creating well-paying jobs for contractors while reducing triggers for asthma and other health impacts.

To solve our housing and climate crises, we must integrate how we think about both. We do not have the time or the resources to meet our housing crisis without considering how to meet our climate crisis. And if new investments in infrastructure deploy green building practices, we can score a triple win for housing, health and the climate.

Dana Bourland is vice president of the Environment Program at the JPB Foundation and author of ‘Gray to Green Communities: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crises.’

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