“The conundrum affordable housing poses for the nation” (Washington Post, January 2, 2020):
A severe shortage of homes for working-class and low-income families is pushing up house prices and rents across the country, putting homeownership increasingly out of reach for many Americans and making rents so high that it is all but impossible for renters to save. With the presidential election fast-approaching, the candidates should explain what they plan to do about it.
I.e., only government can save us!
Half of families who rent and nearly one-fourth of home owners pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income toward their housing costs, a level widely considered unsustainable.
After purchasing essentials, including food, clothing and utilities, the families have little left to cover the cost of health care, bridge the gap during a change in jobs or bear an unforeseen bill of any amount. And forget about saving for retirement or a child’s education.
Fueling the rapid rise in rent and house prices is a severe lack of housing supply.
What’s the shortfall ?
Nationwide, the percent of houses that are vacant has fallen to a more than 35-year low, translating into a shortfall of an estimated 1.6 million new houses.
This gap is increasing by about 300,000 units each year, as builders are putting up close to 1.4 million new dwellings yearly, including single-family houses, apartments and manufactured housing. But the yearly demand for new housing, largely from new households and dwellings needed to replace those lost in natural disasters and to old age, is consistently near 1.7 million units.
Trump is to blame, it seems…
The Trump administration’s immigration policies aren’t helping, as builders can’t find the immigrant workers they need,
But Pew says that it is immigrants and children of immigrants that are responsible for all US population growth:
Foreign-born Americans and their descendants have been the main driver of U.S. population growth, as well as of national racial and ethnic change, since passage of the 1965 law that rewrote national immigration policy. They also will be the central force in U.S. population growth and change over the next 50 years.
Regardless of the source of the growth, what is the size? The Google says our population grows at 0.7 percent per year, so that’s roughly 2.3 million additional Americans annually (more than triple the population of Boston proper!). If we have some big families, 7 people per household, the 300,000-unit shortfall in housing is roughly equal to the population growth.