Skip to main content

How to make housing affordable

Housing costs in many areas across the States have been rising quickly.  One of the major causes is restrictive zoning that keeps housing in short supply, allowing demand to push prices higher.  Two weeks ago Oregon passed a bill with similarities to the failed California SB50.  This bill takes a statewide response to zoning, upzoning many single family areas to automatically allow higher density housing (quadplexes).

It's a fairly amazing development that other states (and cities) should pay close attention to.  Localizing zoning is a fine idea when the concerns are truly local, but when it comes to housing costs, the effects are much more regional.  Left to business as usual, zoning changes at a pace that does not accommodate demand.  Worse yet, when zoning changes it's often only can occur via a backroom deal, which privileges developers with access, ability, and willingness to manipulate the systems.

When a developer spends 1 year planning a project, prices go up.  Part of the reason is by necessity, as more time is spent and any expenses must be financed longer.  But another reason they go up is that the market becomes more exclusive.  Not only must the developer charge higher rates, but they can charge even more.  In that type of market, a developer makes profits via high margins, not high volume.

Taking the approach Oregon has, opening up change en masse, creates opportunities where development will follow a model more like that found outside cities, where prices are lower.  Prices will still be higher, the land value is still higher, and there's some other requirements to meet, but the gap will be smaller.  Unlike the suburban building though, this new building will be higher density, providing more people with access to the local job market and other services of the developed city.

Chicago, and/or Illinois should follow this example.  While housing prices have not spiked here in the same way as they have on the west coast (or northeast), they have been still been rising in comparison to household income in a way that is making housing less affordable, and the city more exclusive.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Commit to Long Term Testing

Expanding testing is very important now.  It's also clearly an area we were unprepared.  We should commit to having testing capacity long term, to both provide more certainty to anyone expanding testing capacity today, and to be prepared in the future. I had some thoughts about how this testing would be best structured.  It's not possible to test for an contagious disease you're not aware of, but much of the infrastructure for doing so can already be in place, ready to be adapted.  That infrastructure would roughly boil down to a) sample collection b) sample handling c) sample preparation d) sample analysis e) materials: reagents, etc. Scaling these up from scratch is quite a bit more work than adapting to a new contagion.  A commitment to having that infrastructure would have helped a lot with the current crisis. Right now, the focus is rightfully on health care workers, suspected cases and essential workers.  In terms of preparation though, in the early stages

Office Plans

I was inspired to do some research on what types of office plans were most popular among workers.  So I dived in and started looking and stumbled across an interesting failure in this area.  When a particular office plan was presented, it never included images of monitors.  This seems a somewhat shocking error considering that the average office worker will spend a fair amount of their time in front of screen.  Consider this as an example:  https://officesnapshots.com/articles/the-top-25-most-popular-offices-of-2018/ .  In all 25 examples, the initial shot is of a common space.  I understand that a bit, it's easier to make these distinctive, the creativity of the designer is more unbounded.  But lets be honest, while these areas are useful to collaborative working, without a large screen and space for a keyboard and mouse, the personal ergonomics of them are not adequate for a lot of work.  Dig a little deeper and many of the deeper reviews don't feature a single shot of a pe