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Niskanen Center

Niskanen Center

Feb 28
13 tweets

THREAD: Why do housing supply restrictions persist? Conventional wisdom says it's because incumbents are defending their property values. The reality is way more complicated. That's an opportunity for YIMBYs. Introducing our agenda for abundant housing:…

Before we enact any reform, we have to understand the political economy of our system: whom it empowers, whom it enriches, etc. Answering these questions will rally opinion shapers around reform, protect reforms against backlash, and help avoid unintended consequences.
Here's how the conventional wisdom explains the political economy of housing: single-family homes and large lot sizes restrict the availability of housing to buyers who will pay at least as much in local taxes as they consume in public services, such as schools.
Thus, people “buy into” de facto “private cities” that charge admission at the municipal border, using growth controls to prevent the construction of homes “too affordable” to pay their full way in property taxes. This prevents fiscal redistribution to lower-income families.
Conventional wisdom reflects what many concerned citizens worry about (the overuse of local services). It also reflects historic intent of land use legislation – income-segregated preservation of property values. It doesn't reflect the reality of today's political economy.
First, restricting growth isn’t always in homeowners’ material self-interest. Many homeowners in the most desirable core land markets would actually see their present home values jump under less restrictive zoning.
Second, renters SHOULD support higher density and more housing, as it would lower their costs. But sometimes, they join NIMBY coalitions. This suggests a mix of economic ignorance and a desire among renters to preserve a certain "neighborhood character."
This indicates that many people active in land use politics may be confused about the fundamental economics of housing supply. Maybe there are long-held cultural values at play. Housing reformers can work to change these false assumptions.
At its core, housing policy is a collective action problem, with local interests often at odds with the general interest. Many people support land-use reform, until it affects their neighborhood.
Therefore, housing reformers should seek to move zoning decisions to higher levels of government that serve wider areas and therefore can better realize the benefits of density while sharing its costs over a larger population.
And while land-use reform will produce more winners than losers, it's important to address any growing pains that people have reason to fear. Local services must keep up with a growing population.
Ultimately, the housing supply crisis we're in today is a political choice, created by false assumptions. Let's build ourselves out of this crisis. Read our new housing policy agenda paper by @Alex Armlovich 🏗️🌐🔰🚋 and @Andrew Justus👷🏼‍♂️🏘🏙🏗 for more:…
Niskanen Center

Niskanen Center

@NiskanenCenter A nonpartisan think tank that promotes an open society and changes public policy via direct engagement in the policymaking process.
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