Dormant Inner Suburbs and the Affordability Crisis

Richard Florida takes a look at a new report that traces the affordability crisis to cities' inability to densify their older, inner suburbs.
February 12, 2018, 10am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Stephen Plaster

We hear a lot about how restrictive land use regulations and the efforts of NIMBYs hold back new housing in central areas. But according to Richard Florida, density advocates may want to widen their focus.

Parsing a report by urban housing economist Issi Romem, Florida writes that many urban cores are developing and densifying. "Romem argues that America's real housing problem—and a big part of the solution to it—lie in closer-in single-family-home neighborhoods that were built up during the great suburban boom of the last century, and that have seen little or no new housing construction since they were initially developed."

Using Los Angeles as a case study, Romem goes through how American cities became seas of single-family housing. Florida argues that easing restrictive zoning rules in inner suburbs "would spread population growth more equitably and sustainably across a metro, relieving the pressure of rising housing prices and gentrification around the urban core, and unsustainable growth at the periphery."

"'The dormant suburban sea is so vast that if the taboo on densification there were broken,' Romem writes, 'even modest gradual redevelopment—tearing down one single-family home at a time and replacing it with a duplex or a small apartment building—could grow the housing stock immensely.'"

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Published on Sunday, February 4, 2018 in CityLab
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