If You Want Housing To Be Affordable, You Need To Build Houses

A blog about business and economics.
May 7 2012 3:32 PM

If You Want Housing To Be Affordable, You Need To Build Houses

A little local planning controversy out of Alexandria: "But opponents say that 800 affordable apartments are too few and that the plan still allows for too much density."

There are two ways to think about the purpose of affordable housing policy. One is to say that you simply want it to be the case that certain neighborhoods contain a certain share of lower income people. In that case then, sure, you just need to slap an "affordable" regulatory label on some houses. But if what you want is for housing to be widely available in your city/country/metro area/state/region/whatever then you ultimately have to look at how many houses do you have. If Alexandria contained only 1,000 homes but they were all rent controlled, that would be a disaster for housing affordability in the larger DC area. You need more density, not less.

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

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