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2016 And Beyond
Party Platforms Ignore Zoning Crisis

Getting housing policy right is one of the most important things a country can do to promote economic growth and social stability. And in America, where rents are rising faster than incomes in metropolitan areas across the country, squeezing the middle class and suffocating job growth, getting housing right means finding a way to beat back zoning regulations and increase the housing supply. Unfortunately, judging by their 2016 platforms, neither party considers this much of a priority. Justin Fox writes for Bloomberg View:

One can never be certain about these things, but it’s quite possible that excessive land-use restrictions are among the major causes of our long national economic malaise. Jason Furman, chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, made this very point in a speech in November. Yet the platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention this week made no mention of either “land use” or “zoning,” while the Republican platform mentioned them only to condemn the current administration’s purported efforts “to undermine zoning laws in order to socially engineer every community in the country.”

At the local level, new land use regulations are often supported by a coalition of wealthy property owners eager to protect their property values, left-wing “anti-development” activists, and environmentalists. The Obama administration deserves credit for breaking with progressive orthodoxy and quietly leaning on states and localities to ease up on zoning controls to make housing more affordable. But the bipartisan indifference to this problem going forward is a troubling, if minor, illustration of why so many voters feel that political elites don’t have the imagination or resolve to make the economy work for them in the 21st century.

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  • Beauceron

    What are you talking about?
    Haven’t you read about the AFFH Rule, Obama’s final knife into the heart of America?
    Obama has fixed the housing problem. As with pretty much everything that horrid man has touched, he’s decided that at its root it is a racism problem. So he’ll be shipping tens/hundreds of thousands of poor urban blacks to the suburbs. That way the suburbanites end up helping to pay for their housing, as well as upkeep, welfare and policing. That it breaks up the white burbs and shatters Republican enclaves is just a bonus.
    What a terrible, rotten country America is.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Zoning is mostly a local issue of “home rule”. And most communities don’t want “affordable housing” for several reasons among which is to create a shortage that pumps up the value of existing housing.

    We also have to understand what other larger forces result in unaffordable housing. One of these is the Federal Reserve’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP). This does provide low mortgage rates but also low interest rates on savings accounts in banks. The working class can no longer save up for a down payment on a home when savings interest rates are 0.25% and inflation is running at 1% (disintermediation or theft).

    As a consequences the intergenerational economic system is broken where older retirees would supplement their pensions and save their money in banks and in turn younger people would borrow that money to create new homes and businesses. Both retirees can no longer afford to live in their existing housing and younger Millennial age young adults can not afford to save for housing. SBA loans require home equity to serve as collateral.

    What drives ZIRP? ZIRP is meant to prop up the stock market so that underfunded retirement funds are also propped up. And stocks are tied to the global economy of trade. So what is creating a drag on housing affordability and small business formations? Answer: The giant underfunded government pension funds such as Cal-PERS and Cal-STRS.

  • Andrew Allison

    In my, not inconsiderable, experience in California “At the local level, new land use regulations are often supported by a coalition of wealthy property owners eager to protect their property values, left-wing “anti-development” activists, and environmentalists.” is nonsense. The real problem is the constant attack by developers, and now the administration, on existing local land use planning regulations.

  • Gerald

    Zoning policy is and should be a local matter. Neither the Federal Government nor State Governments should not be involved in any way other than to enforce civil rights laws. There is no reason to believe that Government policies will do anything except to make the already anemic housing markets even worse.

  • CaliforniaStark

    Can the author of this article cite one example of a city in the U.S. where relaxing zoning laws resulted in lower housing costs? Am not aware of any urban area were new un-subsidized residential development sold for a lower price than existing housing. In many urban areas, the best way to acquire a lower priced home is to buy an older residence and rehabilitate it.

    Frankly, am getting tired at what amounts to a development industry funded war on the middle class. How dare middle class Americans, who have worked and put their life savings into buying a house and into improving their neighborhood, try and preserve both and stand up to powerful real estate interests. In many urban areas, it was the pioneer families, who moved into what were considered bad neighborhoods, that were responsible for turning them around and making the neighborhoods desirable places to live. Now powerful development interest, through political manipulation and altruistic claims of providing more affordable housing, are trying to drive them away. The development interests involved, of course, usually live in gated estates often consisting of several acres of land. Perhaps in the name of increasing more affordable housing, we should focus on subdividing the gated estate.

  • Ofer Imanuel

    I live in NJ, and built a house there 2011. This made me a tea party supporter. Zoning is just part of it. Then there is COAH – I was taxed ~6000$ to pay for “affordable housing” (making mine less affordable). Then there are all the building codes, some which are important, and some which are not, but all are enforced with zealousness. Finally, there are all the regulations. I spent ten of thousands of dollars getting rid of dirt dug for basement just so “not to disturb the existing ground contour”, and to prevent any possible water runoff to neighbors properties.

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