Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

The housing crisis is a problem for everyone — even wealthy homeowners

By Ally Schweitzer, WAMU American University Radio, January 9, 2020

“High housing costs affect those who can’t afford them — they also impact employers, local governments, your neighborhood coffee shop, and even well-to-do homeowners.

“High housing costs worsen traffic

“Traffic is often cited as a reason not to build housing. Add more residents to an area, the logic goes, and you put more cars on the road. But there’s evidence that not building housing can make traffic worse.

“When people can’t afford to live near jobs, they move somewhere cheaper and drive to work.

A 2017 analysis by Portland’s public transit authority found that a drop in ridership stemmed from displacement of low-income workers from the Oregon city.

“That’s why a 2018 report by the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo and ‘smart growth’ organization TransForm urged officials in the Bay Area to view housing production as a partial solution to the region’s intensifying traffic congestion.

“ ‘Reducing travel demand requires looking at what is causing the traffic,’ the report said. ‘One of the most important factors is the scarcity of homes local workers can afford, that are close to jobs and high-quality public transit.’

“Employers need workers at all wage levels

“High housing costs are a major problem for employers — from the federal government to your local hardware store.

“Both the public and private sectors rely on low-wage work. Fortune 500 companies and federal agencies employ low-paid contract workers like security guards and maintenance teams. Retailers need cashiers and restaurants need servers. The fast-growing hospitality industry depends on line cooks, room cleaners, and bellhops.

“Cost-burdened people buy less stuff

“Consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of economic activity in the U.S. A lack of affordable housing can hurt local businesses and the regional economy. Increasing housing supply — and keeping housing prices in check — ‘could result in greater consumption of other goods and services that stimulate growth and employment gains in other sectors, which could have a multiplier effect,’ according to the Urban Institute.

“ ‘You have to clearly show what’s in it for every individual involved,’ said Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey. ‘We have to get people to understand that this is not just about your ability to afford housing versus someone else’s. It’s how this all impacts the functioning of a community.’ ”

Read more here.