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Affordable Housing Shortage Requires Local Solutions

Any real estate expert or professional knows the importance of understanding their local market. As the nation struggles with what are calling an affordability crisis, some say that like real estate in general, the solutions are local. 

In essence, they say the overall mindset needs to change from NIMBY (not in my backyard) to YIMBY (yes in my backyard). 

“As we brace for another general election, we are beginning to hear candidates weigh in on affordable housing,” said housing experts Brooke Medina and Doug McCullough in an article on Fee.org. “Federal policy affects access and affordability to housing, but the best approach to this problem is local.” 

Simply put, the solution is more housing. 

While markets are ruled by supply and demand, in the housing market, supply is artificially constrained by land-use and zoning laws—which are controlled by local governments. 

Several Democratic presidential candidates have proposed plans to address housing affordability, some including incentives for state governments that work to address housing affordability through the easing of land-use and zoning laws. 

In November, Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Maxine Waters also proposed a housing bill that included $10 million through the Community Development Block Grant aimed at cutting back on zoning and other requirements that prevent affordable housing development. 

The NIMBY perspective leads to an exacerbation of supply constraints created and/or maintained through regulations. Medina and McCullough pointed out that people often oppose further real estate development because they want to protect their own property or they wish to preserve the local culture or history of their area. 

While admitting these are “understandable” sentiments, Medina and McCullough said in their piece that this is a “form of economic protectionism” and even go so far as to say the NIMBY outlook can be “a form of disenfranchisement.” 

“By politically and legally favoring real estate value appreciation or preserving dubious historical real estate, we stand to risk locking individuals and families out of affordable housing,” wrote Medina and McCullough.

In addition to changing or easing zoning restrictions, Medina and McCullough advise changing parking minimum requirements, which they say “are another contributor to the affordable housing puzzle that deserves more attention.” 

They also point out that certain cities will respond better and more quickly to additional housing supply. For example, New York and San Francisco “are poor examples for the rest of the country that don’t face the same obstinate demand,” the experts said. 

In contrast, growing cities in the Midwest, Texas, and North Carolina could benefit from adapting regulations to allow for additional affordable housing construction.

California is already taking a YIMBY mindset and enacting change that allows for higher-density housing in the state. California Gov. Gavin Newsome signed bills last year that allows up to three homes to be built on land previously zoned for one single-family home. 

About Author: Krista F. Brock

Krista Franks Brock is a professional writer and editor who has covered the mortgage banking and default servicing sectors since 2011. Previously, she served as managing editor of DS News and Southern Distinction, a regional lifestyle publication. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Consumers Digest, Dallas Style and Design, DS News and DSNews.com, MReport and theMReport.com. She holds degrees in journalism and art from the University of Georgia.
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