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Blue Model Blues
Housing Costs Drive Americans Out of Blue Cities

Why do so many Americas flee blue states for red states? Over at Vox, Matt Ygelsias thinks he has the answer: Zoning and land use regulations in blue states make housing far more expensive there than it is in many red states. More:

Whatever else Blue America has going for it, it’s done a terrible job of generating enough housing supply to accommodate all the people who might like to live there. So in addition to the traditional southward migration of retirees you now see a substantial net population flow away from richer areas in the Northeast and the California coast to the relatively low-wage economies of Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia. For many working- and middle-class Americans, the lower cost of living makes a decisive difference.

This comes about primarily because coastal areas have adopted excessively strict zoning rules. There is not enough semi-dense mid-rise construction in the affluent suburbs of San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, etc. Secondarily, there are too many restrictions on the creation of new big apartment towers in the very most expensive parts of coastal cities.

While we think other factors besides expensive housing contribute to driving people out of blue states, Yglesias is certainly right that it is an important factor. Housing eats up a high proportion of the budgets of residents in blue cities, and misguided blue policies contribute to the problem. And it’s not just the zoning laws—as The Economist recently pointed out, counterproductive green policies also help constrain housing supply in places like LA. Blue cities concerned about their residents’ bottom lines should start by dismantling these policies and working to lower the cost of living for everyone—but we’re not holding our breath.

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  • Bruce

    What much of the country doesn’t understand is that blue states and cities pretend they have good intentions. However, it is no longer arguable that the blue model doesn’t work, so in order to stay with and double down on blue policies, there has to be another explanation. That explanation is that the politicians have found a way to stay in power by deluding people in to thinking that these politicians “care.” It’s not good intentions gone awry. It’s actually bad intentions resulting in what the perpetrators want – political power.

    • LarryD

      The politicians want to stay in power, and driving the middle class away reduces potential republican voters, so they are good with that. The upper class loth middle and working class, so they are good with them being driven away. Basically, what LivingRock and Bruce have said.

      And Environmentalism is just a cover for this agenda.

  • LivingRock

    Frankly, I’m not convinced that the Blues in Blue cities don’t see this as a positive. They hate growth with all the people and what not ruining their precious Blue paradise. Expensive housing and opportunities for them while everybody else can just live on expanding gov’t assistance. Twisted.

  • circleglider

    The problem is not the lack of “enough semi-dense mid-rise construction in the affluent suburbs of” the blue cities on the west coast.

    It’s the lack of single-family homes on millions of acres of protected “open space” that ring those affluent suburbs.

    • Martin W. Lewis

      In the San Francisco Bay Area, the demand is precisely for dense and semi-dense construction in the cities and established suburbs, not for single-family housing in the steep and fire-prone hills, which would be very expensive at any rate, or in the hot, smoggy, and distant farmlands of the Central Valley.

      My only objection to the post is the phrase “counterproductive green policies,” as these policies are anything but green. They are rather based on the purely selfish interests of established property owners, and in the end they amount to a war on the young, and war on business and the economy, and a war on the environment. Eco-modernists, such as those associated with the Breakthrough Institute, understand this, but the eco-theological environmental mainstream does not and probably never will.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    It’s easy to see where the economic growth is happening, and it isn’t in blue model states and locals. Housing costs are just one of the ways big government in blue model states and locals is driving people to the small government states and locals. In biological terms, when a the parasitic burden (big government) on an animal grows to large the animal becomes weak and sickly, and potentially dies.

  • motoguzzi

    The Blue Model consists of the elites living in beautiful homes in a desirable area, while the masses live out in the Projects, doomed to public transit as they show up to clean, cook and do the gardening.

  • veritas

    I only hope that those on the left affected by these poor policies do not subsequently move to red states and vote for the same policies that drove them out in the first place.

    • D. Adair

      Look at Colorado. A significant part of our in-migration has been blue staters and that has had a profound effect in our local politics. We used to be raliably red but our major cities have become overwhelmingly blue.

  • rambler

    Control freak politicians and central planners have damaged the housing market. I’d rather have an RV for a home. Any time there is a problem, I can drive away!

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