Mitt Romney Got It On Housing Costs In 2006

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March 6 2012 2:49 PM

Mitt Romney Got It On Housing Costs In 2006

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Via Josh Barro, it turns out that in his 2006 State of the Commonwealth Address then-governor of Massachusetts made some brief but excellent remarks on housing costs that could be lifted straight from the pages of The Rent Is Too Damn High:

The number one culprit our employers mention [for not expanding in Massachusetts], the biggest obstacle to job growth, is the high cost of housing. Families can’t afford to locate here. There’s one simple reason our housing is so expensive: we don’t build enough of it. Yes, we’re doing better. In three years, housing starts have gone from 17,500 to 24,000, and multi-family starts have doubled. But we have to do better. Housing developers want to build and bankers are anxious to finance, but local citizens and municipalities fight housing development every way they can, primarily with lawsuits and lengthy delays. Some fear that new housing means new costs, such as for education, that the municipality can’t afford. For that reason, my budget will propose a new formula for funding schools that gives extra support to those that are growing. It also creates a new $30 million fund to reward those municipalities that are opening their doors to new housing, particularly in town and city centers. If we’re going to grow and attract new jobs, we have to build homes for people to live in.

This is right on, it's smart analysis and it's smart policy. Land use decisions are fundamentally local, but they have regional and national implications. It's smart for larger government units to try to leverage their financial resources to create pro-growth incentives. It's too bad, of course, that Romney hasn't talked much about this lately. As governor, Romney was quite the smart growth guy but this isn't really in keeping with his remade image as an orthodox conservative. Still, a lot of the basic urbanist message is extremely market friendly and I'd be very happy to see him talk about it.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.